Have you ever wondered what librarians are doing to make public libraries more accessible and welcoming to people with disabilities? Let me introduce you to SNAILS. SNAILS, which stands for Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services, is a networking group made up of professionals from Chicago-area public libraries. Together with over 40 participating libraries, we support one another’s efforts to provide specialized services and programs to children and teens with disabilities through collaboration and training. As librarians and library staff who work with children and teens, we are passionately committed to inclusivity and making a positive impact on the lives of all children. Our meetings and blog are forums to exchange ideas, learn, advocate, and inspire.
While SNAILS is still relatively new, we have already done so much work to help expand accessible services at library communities throughout the Chicagoland area. At our November meeting, we invited guest librarians to present about Sensory Storytimes—programs that are developed for young children with special needs. We have also talked about using iPads with children with special needs, and shared information about resources specifically written for librarians about developing new disability-friendly outreach programs.
At our February meeting, SNAILS welcomed JJ Hanley from jjslist.com. We learned about disability-aware strategies and customer service tips, and heard about how jjslist.com could help libraries earn a Disability-Awareness Business Seal of Approval. SNAILS members also received an overview about how jjslist.com can be used as a tool for libraries to promote accessible library services to new library users throughout the community. We also learned about the Disability Awareness Players, which is a fantastic training opportunity for any public library and their staff. Many thanks to JJ Hanley and the wonderful team at jjslist.com for continuing to educate, challenge, and inspire libraries to expand and improve services to people with disabilities!
Check out the SNAILS list of Member Libraries to take a look at what accessible programs and services are available at your local library. And we librarians are always interested in input. So, be sure to check out your local public library and talk to a librarian. We would love to receive feedback about ways we can make our libraries more inclusive for all patrons.
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About The Author
As a Youth Services Librarian at the Deerfield Public Library in Deerfield, Illinois, Renee Grassi launched new programs and services for children with special needs, earning the Deerfield Library the 2010 North Suburban Special Education (NSSED) Best Practice Initiative Award. Renee is a nationally recognized leader in library services for children with disabilities, and was named a 2012 Library Journal Mover & Shaker for her work in this area. She has presented several workshops at local and state library conferences on this topic, in addition to leading webinars about library programming for children with special needs. Renee also blogs for ALSC, where she writes about special needs services as they relate to children’s librarianship. In her current position as Head of Children’s Services at the Glencoe Public Library in Glencoe, Illinois, Renee partners with the National Lekotek Center offering a new inclusive program for children with special needs. Renee is also one of three co-founding members of SNAILS.