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.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

"When You Find a Hill to Die On": A Tale of Workplace Toxicity

this image is decorative

A US librarian recently approached me about doing a guest post on the topic of workplace toxicity. I was honored, especially since I've been reading and writing more about workplace culture in my attempt to continue to foster a healthy working environment for myself and my team. They wish to remain anonymous.

CW: Sexual harrasment.

Can we talk about toxic expectations and working environments in public libraries? You know, the ones that tell librarians that we are meant to live for our jobs and that being a librarian is a sacred calling that must be honored by keeping our criticisms of the field very kind and positive.

Public libraries have a long history of building on a foundation of unhealthy cultures and they tend to be breeding grounds for harmful concepts in the workplace like a culture of poor boundaries and expectations of personal sacrifice. It creates an unspoken pressure to perform tasks outside your job description, to work up to and through burn out, and to shape our personal plans, like vacations, around the needs of patrons. It makes us more likely to sacrifice our personal time to work more than 40 hours a week. It sets us up for occupational martyrdom and there are very real dangers that lurk around its edges.

I have experienced an extreme version of these issues and, as a natural result, extreme consequences. When we’re reluctant to see problems and to raise concerns with our employers, they gain a false sense of their progress as leaders and they can easily start to think of poor working conditions as normal and necessary. This was my disaster and it led me to a place where, in addition to a lot of other minor abuses, I was expected to place myself in physical danger without complaint. I was a solo librarian (with backup from paraprofessionals) for a system made up of small town and rural branches and, as part of my position, I sometimes needed to work alone in a building. This standard of solo librarians is still so common in rural and small libraries, but even some urban libraries are built on the idea that staff should face physical danger and unhealthy working environments for the sake of work and our patrons. Maybe you haven’t faced working alone, but I bet you can relate to feeling the pressure to give endlessly because, well, you love your job don’t you? You want to provide the very best for your community, right?  (For more on this concept, check out Fobazi Ettarh’s blog post where she coins the term vocational awe.)

I feel so strongly that these kinds of toxic cultures need to be addressed that I want to share my personal experience with trying to do just that.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Prizeless Prize Wheel: My New Favorite Outreach Tool


A blonde woman in a blue sweater and dress standing
behind a table with a black tablecloth on it. On top of the table are
various pamphlets and other small giveaways. To her right is
an 18-inch, rainbow-colored prize wheel.

Last week my coworker Cynthia and I attended a Health Fair on behalf of our cooperative. It was a "tabling event", as opposed to an outreach event like a class visit. Those who have been following me for awhile probably know how much I've wanted to crack this type of event, how a couple years ago I started seeing the similarities between tabling events and brewfests; and my hard-held belief that, all other things being equal (for instance, we are tabling among other community organizations) we can be the most popular table on the block.

So. Last week: we were.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Disability Community in the Library: The Class

A cartoon cat in a space helmet with a key, emerging from a fancy door with a galaxy pattern behind it.
(Accessibility series logo by Chris at On a Roll Designs)
(who also wrote this amazing post)

A year ago, after hearing about the massacre at Sagamihara  I felt a lot of silence from, like, everyone, but also specifically from my online library communities. A lot of feelings I've had in libraries since I began came to a very abrupt head.

I decided that the hurt I felt was powerful enough to identify myself plainly as the disability killjoy I've always been so scared of being.

Never feeling "disabled enough" to identify as disabled, and not abled enough to shake a person's hand, I fought my entire life to hold onto the illusion  of a modicum of abled privilege that passing gets me; only to live through experiences that reinforced, again and again, how little society regards me once it finds out I tricked it and ~SURPRISE~ I'm not the "normal" person you thought I was and HERE I AM, IN YOUR SPACE. OOPS. (oh, and also how little it regards PWD in general, usually while "passing").

No more of that. After a summer of near constant grief I realized I had no choice, as someone with privilege/power both socially and professionally, but to talk about my disability as openly as I could and amplify the existing voices of the disability community within the world of libraries. I was new, and learning, and I'm still far from calling myself an activist, but it was all I could think of to do.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

2017 Summer Reading Videos

Baby sloth sitting in a tea cup.
photo by Sam Trull of the Sloth Institute
Remember a few months ago when I put out a call for contributors for Summer Reading hype videos? Perhaps understandably, I didn't get quite the response this year than I did last year. But did want to share with you the submissions I DID receive, in case you need a pick-me-up to get you through the last few weeks:

Abby from Abby the Librarian talks about finding awesome moments to hold on to.

Rebecca from Hafuboti left us in stitches with a video about existential crises.

And lastly, Julie from Storytime Underground and Tales for the Tiny created a parody song about the trials of SRP (Admitting that I felt 900 years old for asking: this is a parody of Lady Gaga song. In case you are also 900 years old.).

A big THANK YOU this year to our contributors, and a big HANG IN THERE to all you staff on the front line of SRP. Your patrons are so glad you're there and I'm grateful for you.

Also, have some more sloths.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tells, Safety, and the Tenets of the Profession

Black text on a grey background reads,
"Tells, Safety, and the Tenets of the Profession"

Should we do outreach to hate groups?
No.


The above was originally the entirety of a post I wanted to make about a comment thread in a library Facebook group this weekend. Some participants seemed to argue that yes, it is reasonable and appropriate to ask your outreach librarian who identifies with intersecting marginalized populations to cold-call or visit an organization whose mission is to promote the eradication of those populations from America.


I'm not linking it here because I don't want to exploit or endanger the Original Poster, who was sincerely looking for help. Additionally, I encountered two additional threads in other groups that have mirrored past conversations I’ve seen in list-servs, on Twitter, and in real life, so clearly this is not an isolated incident. My post here can’t be as simple or snarky as I originally intended.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Let's Be Teammates at WCCLS!

7 people posing with Elvis masks.
This is the team you could join,
if you dare!
Y'all may not be aware how much I love my job but I really, really love it. Which is why I'm SUPER excited to say that WCCLS is hiring an additional Youth Services Librarian II to increase our capacity! Check out the posting below, and follow the link to apply!

Are you passionate about your vocation as a youth services librarian and looking to take the next leap on your career path?  Are you adept at building and maintaining collaborative relationships with library colleagues and community partners?  Are you keyed into youth services trends locally and nationally?  If so, we want to hear from you and encourage you to submit an application packet for this exceptional opportunity!

Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS) in Washington County, Oregon is in search of a Youth Services Librarian II to complete a collaborative, forward-thinking Youth Services team. WCCLS Outreach and Youth Services works with our 16 member library sites to deliver high-quality services to our county's children and families, a population that continues to grow and change.  In the position of Youth Services Librarian II, you can expect to:

Be a resource and advocate for local youth services staff and the services they provide,
Act as a liaison and voice of local youth services staff to WCCLS leadership,
Create content for countywide campaigns including Summer Reading,
Collaborate with school districts and community partners around shared goals,
Represent WCCLS and our libraries at countywide meetings and events, and
Dream and scheme with the existing Youth Services Librarian II, the Youth Services Library Assistant, and others on the Outreach and Youth Services team to expand programs and execute brand new projects, including those funded by the annual Oregon Ready to Read grant.

To learn more about our program and the services we provide, please visit:  WCCLS Home

We offer a collaborative culture and work-life balance.  Working within our local government agency provides daily opportunities to serve, build and sustain communities now and into the future. In addition to being an affirmative action and equal opportunity employer with a commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce representing the rich diversity in our region.  Women, minorities, veterans and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

ESSENTIAL JOB DUTIES
30%   Coordination of Youth Services Activities - Coordinates countywide youth services activities (ages 0-18) including the Summer Reading program and programs geared to school age children. Provides support for the countywide youth services meetings.  Leads and facilitates group meetings and committees. Provides professional assistance to member libraries through resource sharing, training opportunities, and coaching to develop or expand programs and services for youth and families.  Works with member library youth services staff to propose, implement, and sustain countywide library initiatives. Maintains and expands various kits to be used by member library staff.

30%   Community Outreach and Partnerships - Coordinates library outreach to, and training of, child care providers and parents in partnership with countywide community organizations.  Provides early literacy training for child care providers and parents when service by a member library is not possible. Networks with community organizations that provide services to families and children.  Represents countywide youth services librarians at county/regional networking meetings. Acts as a resource on library service to youth for community partners.  Acquires and maintains necessary early literacy curriculum certification and training.

20%   Other - Develops content for print and electronic resources.  Creates and delivers presentations and print pieces to promote countywide youth services. Prepares monthly statistical reports on services and activities. Selects and orders necessary supplies. Assists in the development of the youth services budget.  Actively participates in local, regional, state and national organizations and professional groups that provide early literacy, young adult and youth services.

15%   Grant Management – Shares responsibility for managing the annual Oregon State Ready to Read non-competitive grant. Develops and sustains projects created through Ready to Read Grant funds. Coordinates the grant application and reporting process with 4 member libraries. Researches and applies for grants to support program goals as appropriate.

5%   Supervision – May employ direct supervision over assigned staff including training and mentoring.  May act as person-in-charge in absence of Senior Librarian.

KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND ABILITIES
Education and Experience
A typical way to obtain the minimum required knowledge, skills and abilities for this vacancy would be:

A Master's level education in Library Science from an accredited American Library Association (ALA) program or related field; and
Two years of recent and relevant professional level library experience providing youth services.
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Click here to view the job ad and apply! Give yourself ample time to answer the supplemental questions. The position opening closes July 16th.

I know you want to apply. We'v got so much good work to do together!