Monday, September 25, 2017

Autistic Perspectives on Dr. Temple Grandin at the ALSC Blog


Do you remember Justin Spectrum, the first autistic librarian to write about autism at the ALSC blog? Last week, he published a new blogpost regarding his thoughts on The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin, a new biography for children by Julia Finley Mosca (illustrated by Daniel Rieley). It's a thought provoking piece. Please take a minute to read and consider it.

Representation has been on my mind recently, since I've been writing content on evaluating books with disabled characters for my upcoming course. You may remember that I started the entire Accessibility Series  with a story about how I didn't really see my experience with disability reflected in a book character until I was 29, and how dismayed I was to find that as whole the book was not well-received, because I wanted more. Justin, similarly, praises this book for its representation and potential for mainstream appeal, while lamenting that its subject can be problematic. He does a great job summarizing much of the autistic community's criticism of Temple Grandin, and I encourage you to dive in.

Lydia Brown at Autistic Hoya additionally outlines some ways that Temple Grandin is used by abled people as a "token" autistic person and the problems with that, notably: "Because she is autistic and her statements align with those articulated from an ableist sensibility, neurotypicals advancing the views that autism presents a problem of pathology can claim authenticity or legitimacy for their position through Temple Grandin's reiteration of the same sentiments."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Youth Services in Action: Here's What We Do

Black text on a green background:
"Youth Services: Here's What We Do"

When libraries consider disbanding age-specific departments, it particularly affects youth services in a way that it might not in other sections of the library. This tweet at Librarian Problems, which right now has 700 engagements between Twitter and Tumbler, plays on this idea: Homer Simpson gasps as he's met with a room full of babies; this GIF is accompanied by the phrase, "When a reference librarian wanders into storytime". In the episode this GIF comes from, the room full of babies is silent save for their pacifiers; in storytime, as we know, this is not the case.

It's a funny concept, which is why so many liked, retweeted, and reblogged it. But those engagements and the comments it's garnered definitely tell me: it's funny because it's true. 

I have no doubt that plenty of libraries disband age-specific departments in a supportive way that values the strengths of all staff, and I've even seen it happen at libraries in my cooperative. Heck, my program is doing this when we soon on-board our new Youth Services Librarian, as the two positions were originally conceived as "Early Literacy" and "School Services" but will now work in a more collaborative, project-based way. The pearl clutcher in me, however, is ever the cynic and the skeptic.

There are lots of things to consider when thinking about the design of services to youth in your public librarian, and librarians much smarter than me have already begun to tackle them. Karen Jensen of Teen Librarian Toolbox and Melissa Depper of Mel's Desk have some awesome, required reading threads. Kendra Jones started a Facebook conversation about a recently announced PLA Conference session; the post and comments are edifying and worth a read. Tess Prendergast wrote an open letter to PLA  about it complete with a citation list, and was able to get the title changed, at least. Please follow those links. I'll be here.

I am so grateful that my cooperative has a position like mine, and that it's valued so much we are expanding our program. I do coordinating things, but I also take advocating for youth services and our youth services library staff seriously. I try my best to help our library staff break down barriers to youth access and provide the highest quality services to youth possible. It's a job that can be tough but I'm honored that the trust has been bestowed upon me to do it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Accommodations and the ADA: Writing Policy to Exception

Accessibility series logo by Chris Frantz

I had a less shouty post brewing. I really did. It was about research or maybe it was about other favorite tools or trust and maybe I'll get to those later.

But then I found out about H.R. 620. And I thought about how little I'd seen about it yet. But then I read the intent of the bill, and I thought about how libraries sometimes approach disability, and I feel the need to talk about this instead. I also feel compelled to say that the appropriate response from abled people here is not outrage/shock. (Seriously, read that link, it's really good).

Here's what the link to H.R. 620 says: "The bill prohibits civil actions based on the failure to remove an architectural barrier to access into an existing public accommodation unless: (1) the aggrieved person has provided to the owners or operators a written notice specific enough to identify the barrier, and (2) the owners or operators fail to provide the person with a written description outlining improvements that will be made to improve the barrier or they fail to remove the barrier or make substantial progress after providing such a description. The aggrieved person's notice must specify: (1) the address of the property, (2) the specific ADA sections alleged to have been violated, (3) whether a request for assistance in removing an architectural barrier was made, and (4) whether the barrier was permanent or temporary."

Right now, the Americans with Disabilities Act puts the responsibility of ensuring accessibility on a building's owner, proactively. Meaning, if your building does not comply with ADA, whether or not anyone told you about it, or whether or not a disabled person had to compromise their humanity to tell you about it, your building is breaking the law. This bill would put the responsibility on disabled people to announce themselves in order to use a space effectively, in writing, not only the specific ADA non-compliance but also that they asked for assistance. One reason for this proposed change is that many, many buildings built before ADA passed in 1990 still do not comply, after 27 years, and their owners cannot be bothered to think about disabled people as actual people who need to use or work in their buildings.

FYI: There's a very good chance your library is one of those buildings.

Not that you need to be told that, of course; disabled people in libraries are reminded of their statuses as potential lawsuits all the time. I recently heard from a librarian whose library's elevator wasn't working, told that it would be "fine". When another brought up that people using walkers couldn't get through the exactly 36" wide hallway in a library during construction, they were told "no one will probably say anything, and they can't sue."

I really implore you to think about what it tells disabled patrons and staff when your ADA compliance is based on convenience and lawsuits rather than, I don't know, actually giving a damn that people can accessibly use your spaces.