November 26, 2022

For Librarians, a New Digital Resource on Students with Disabilities


Image courtesy of Project ENABLE.

A new resource, Project ENABLE, is helping close an identified gap in library services to those with disabilities. In 2006, as part of a New York State impact study, Ruth V. Small of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies asked school librarians to rate their own ability to perform various aspects of their jobs, from measuring student achievement to developing curriculum to implementing new technology.

Across the state, one finding was alarmingly consistent: School librarians gave themselves very low grades on serving the needs of students with disabilities.

Image courtesy of Project ENABLE.

Armed with this knowledge and a $482, 130 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Small and her team set out to create Project ENABLE (Expanding Nondiscriminatory Access by Librarians Everywhere). The initiative provides information and instruction on delivering more effective library and information services to students with disabilities.

The project’s website, launched last week, is a nod to the increasing awareness in the school library community that students with disabilities require specialized learning techniques and supports. It offers free self-paced learning modules with integrated video, games, quizzes and assessments. “It’s the first of its kind for practicing librarians,” Small, who directs the school media program at the School of Information Studies, said.

Project ENABLE’s content has already been integrated into Syracuse University’s pre-professional school librarian program. Small said that her team received a further $19,990 IMLS grant to train faculty from school library programs across the country so that pre-professionals could be taught skills such as how to plan inclusive instruction, speak in person-first language, and design an accessible library.

While a mobile app isn’t yet in the works, the site is “tablet-friendly,” said Tom Hardy, the CEO of Ithaca, NY-based Data Momentum, which designed the website. Hardy added that library MLIS instructors could grant access to their students and measure their progress through the modules.

Small said that other groups, such as the Chicago Public Schools, have expressed interest in using the material in their continuing education program. “This is kind of a culminating event of the first round,” she said of the launch. “Now we want people to use the material in whatever way they can.”

Related: ProQuest Launches Graduate Education Program For Library Schools

Related: PLA Gets Grant to Build Digital Literacy Resource for Libraries



About Hiten Samtani

Hiten Samtani (@hitsamty) is a graduate of the Columbia Journalism School covering the madcap world of real estate for The Real Deal, and a former contributing reporter on education for the New York Times.