Organizing School Library Facilities

Instructor: Emily Hamm

Emily has B.S. in elementary education and a M.S. in educational technology. She teaches full-time, works as an adjunct professor, and is a freelancer.

This lesson looks at considerations and methods for organizing the physical resources within the library facilities to provide equitable access for all users, including individuals with disabilities.

Disabled

The term disabled is used widely, yet the description is so broad that it provides little information on the impairment and needs of someone who is placed within this category. Disabled means that in some way, the person is limited in their ability to perform tasks.

Disabilities can include physical ones such as deafness, blindness, chronic illness, and physical mobility issues. Mental disabilities can include autism, learning disabilities, and mental health issues.

Library Services

If a public library patron says, 'I'm disabled,' this could mean a wide variety of possible issues, and it may be difficult to discover unless directly told by the patron. Luckily for Library Media Specialist, within the context of a school library media center, it is probable that a disabled child will have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504. These provide detailed information on the limitations for the child as well provides helpful information on accommodations needed to ensure a child can be successful. At the disposable of the LMS is a team of individuals who can provide services to ensure equity of that child's education.

Although it may seem obvious, it needs to be stated that there can be no discrimination against individuals with disabilities. All students need to have equal access to the library and the services it provides. This is not just a legal issue, but a moral one as well. While planning and implementing library facilities and programs, needed accommodations for individuals with disabilities should always be considered.

Library Facilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act was a civil rights law that eliminated discrimination against such individuals. For a library, this means considerations must be given in the physical space, layout, design, and features of the space.

For example, there should be easy travel throughout the library facility. This means stacks of books are not allowed that would impede the space needed to open a door or traverse through the facility. If applicable in the school setting, the restroom must provide accessible toilets and sinks as well as water fountains. Additionally, handrails, ramps, and elevators must be provided in spaces that merit the need for such tools.

Visual impairments also need to be considered when working on a library media facility. Items such as visible fire alarms (blinking lights instead of just the sound) and signs that have Braille should be included. When creating signage within a library, the character size, font, and contrast should be a consideration. This is to make signage as visible as possible--even to those with limited sight.

Library Collections

The materials within a library should be accessible if at all possible. This includes providing changes to processes and materials for individuals with disabilities. Materials must be made reasonably available in a variety of formats and with accommodations. The only time a library can legally not alter a service is when the accommodation 'fundamentally alters' or places an 'undue burden' on the library.

Collections within the library should include materials that provide clear information on a wide array of disabilities and issues. This could be collections that promote diversity and inclusion in the fiction sections. Informationally, material provided might be current job information, legal rights, and healthcare information.

In an elementary school, organizing a collection of picture books by genre or type might work best to help those with a disability. For example, I could put all the books related to color or rainbows in a tub. If a child cannot reach high enough, this is an easy way for them to independently have access to all the books in that genre. I simply grab the tub and bring it to their access level. Also, placing the material by genre helps expose students to books they may not have otherwise graviatated toward. A bin specific for exceptionalities would help students with disablities find books about the topic.

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