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New IMLS Grant Moves Accessibility, Inclusiveness Training Tools Forward

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The School of Information Studies and Syracuse University are taking more steps forward in developing and providing a unique set of accessible and inclusive problem-based resources for librarian training through a new Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Ruth Small
Ruth Small

The grant is the fifth one the program has awarded to Ruth Small, Laura J. & L. Douglas Meredith Professor at Syracuse University and iSchool professor emerita/research professor through her groundbreaking disabilities training website for librarians, Project ENABLE (Expanding Non-discriminatory Access By Librarians Everywhere), originally created in partnership with the Burton Blatt Institute of Syracuse University.  Dr. Small also utilized Project ENABLE in collaborating with the Illinois State Library’s on their Targeting Autism project.  

The award of $249,235 provides funding over a two-year period where the project team will develop free and accessible online train-the-trainer courses, webinars, online discussion forums, pathfinders, train-the-trainer planning guides and a collection of training support materials that form a train-the-trainer package for librarians on accessible and inclusive facilities, programs, resources and services for all patrons.

The project, “Library Services to Patrons with Disabilities: A Problem-Based Learning Approach,” will produce eight information videos featuring 16 school, public and academic librarians who describe authentic problems and challenges they have faced for creating library facilities and programs that are accessible and inclusive. The videos are designed to trigger discussion and creative ideas for solving those challenges. The videos form the centerpiece of the project’s larger mission to provide comprehensive train-the trainer support, using a problem-based learning approach, to librarians and library administrators who wish to offer in-house staff training on this topic.

Marilyn Arnone
Marilyn Arnone

Small is principal investigator, and Marilyn Arnone, iSchool professor of practice and research associate professor, is co-principal investigator on the project. Together they are partnering with Infopeople’s Lisa Barnhart, also a co-principal investigator on the project. Infopeople is an organization that provides continuing education and professional development opportunities to library staffs throughout North America. 

The initiative’s goals are to help participating librarians develop increased confidence and the ability to effectively serve the library and information needs of patrons with disabilities, to help libraries train staff in specific ways of doing so, and to widely disseminate information about the project’s training materials throughout the U.S. and worldwide through a variety of national and international dissemination outlets, according to Small and Arnone.

The project’s diverse and inclusive Project Advisory Committee (PAC), a group of 10 experienced library leaders and disabilities experts from the U.S. and Canada, will provide group and individual consultation to the project team while the project’s training and materials are being developed. In addition, the researchers will consult with a review committee of eight school, public, and academic librarians who will provide advice and feedback on all training deliverables at key points in their development. Project training and train-the-trainer resources will be iteratively designed, allowing the project team to build, test, and revise deliverables throughout the grant period. All project materials will be freely accessible through the Project ENABLE website.

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