By: Diane Stirling
As word spreads about the Center for Digital Literacy’s (CDL) Project ENABLE, more and more representatives of academic institutions, library resources, and community organizations are reaching out to coordinate with the program and tap its unique resources.
Several years after its initial development, Project ENABLE (Expanding Non-Discriminatory Access By Librarians Everywhere), based from the CDL at the School of Information Studies (iSchool), continues to expand its scope and usefulness. Funded with grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the program was created to raise librarians’ awareness of a broad range of disabilities and how best to provide quality library and information resources and services to users with disabilities, according to Ruth V. Small, Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor and Director, Center for Digital Literacy. The School is collaborating with the Burton Blatt Institute based at Syracuse University on the project.
Dr. Small provided an update on Project ENABLE’s recent achievements:
- The dedicated project web site (http://projectenable.syr.edu) has had 897,450 unique visitors visiting nearly 2.3 million times. Dr. Small said the project hopes to reach 1 million unique visitors by the end of this year.
- A total of 667 librarians and other educators have registered for Project ENABLE’s online training. The training currently focuses on school librarians and their role, but is being expanded to include public and academic librarians. “We expect these numbers to be well over 1,000 by the end of this academic year,” Dr. Small noted.
- Project managers have become IMLS’s “go-to people when someone inquires about this topic,” Dr. Small reported. One of the project’s proposals will be used as an example on the IMLS web site. ”
- Requests for partnerships are increasing. One includes a Florida State University project to provide a digital library of resources on autism spectrum disorders to school librarians in Florida. Another is an Illinois State Library proposal to sponsor a summit on ways to provide all the state’s librarians with the information they need to serve patrons with autism spectrum disorders,
- There are numerous requests to link the site with other related ones, such as “We Connect Now,” an organization for college students with disabilities, Dr. Small said.
- A series of free Webinars is being planned on the topics of “Evaluating Physical and Programmatic Accessibility of a Library Program;” “Accessible and Inclusive Collection Development and Management;” “Inclusive Library Leadership;” and “UDL Principles in Web Design.”
- The Project continues to explore how enhancing its training site, such as allowing users to customize their experience by the type of library and state of location, while offering information on policies and practices unique to people with disabilities in various states.
- Two new grant proposals are underway for submission to IMLS. One focuses on research regarding Project ENABLE’s impact on training in library practice and on library use; and also on digital literacy skills by students with disabilities. The second is in partnership with Rebecca Reynolds, of Rutgers, and focuses on preparing librarians to lead in assistive technology use by teachers and students, culminating with a national symposium on the topic.
New Project ENABLE iterations illustrate “how much potential there is for [it] to impact the library profession and practice, and to assist the tens of thousands of library users with disabilities,” Dr. Small noted. The recognition and widespread use the project has received serve as “a cornerstone project for our Center and School,” she expressed.
Co-principal investigators in the project are Renee Franklin Hill, Ph.D., professor in the School of Information Studies, and William Myhill, M.Ed., J.D., director of legal research and writing at the Burton Blatt Institute and an adjunct professor of law at Syracuse University.
Project ENABLE has received three Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian and one supplementary grant from IMLS since 2010, totaling just under $1 million. The first two grants focused on training school librarians, first in New York State and then nationally. The newest grant expands to public and academic librarians nationwide.