This year’s ASCLA/KLAS/NOD Award, an annual honor presented by the Association for Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA), will be presented to two organizations that produced noteworthy services and programming for library users with disabilities: the Port Washington (N.Y.) Public Library for its “Books for Dessert” Program, and the Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library and the Boston Public Library Digital Access Project.
The award is supported by ASCLA, home to accessibility issues and advocacy within ALA, Keystone Library Automation Systems (KLAS) and the National Organization for Disabilities (NOD), with the $1000 prize donated by KLAS. The award recognizes an institution for an innovative and well-organized project that successfully developed or expanded services for people with disabilities and has made its total services more accessible through changing physical and/or attitudinal barriers. Faced with an overwhelming number of outstanding award applications for 2012, the committee chose two recipients for this year’s honor. Each winner will receive a citation and split the award money, receiving $500 each.
The Port Washington Public Library’s “Books for Dessert” program makes the riches of the public library accessible to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities by sharing the joy of reading in a relaxed, social and supportive environment. Launched as a pilot program in 2003 with initial funding support from New York State, “Books for Dessert” has expanded from one group with eight participants to three groups, two evening and one morning, with about 50 participants. Program participants range in age from their early-20s to mid-60s. The club gathers once a week between September and June to read aloud from books like “The Pearl” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” learn vocabulary and enjoy refreshments and good conversation. At the completion of the book, a video of the same title may be shown. The group compares the book and the video, stimulating discussion and reinforcing comprehension of the material. In addition to these educational benefits, library usage has increased among registered Book Club members, as well as their friends, housemates and the agency staff driving club members to the meetings.
The “Books for Dessert” program receives support from community partners, including Community Mainstreaming Associates, Inc. and the Association for the Help of Retarded Children (AHRC), an advisory board of parents, library staff, experts in the field and certified special education teachers to bring a reading and discussion experience to adults with ID/DD. High school students also support the teachers during each session by answering questions and helping participants follow along in the book while someone else is reading. The Advisory Board has created a manual that will allow other libraries to replicate this program—more information is available by accessing “Books for Dessert” at www.pwpl.org.
“The Port Washington Public Library’s ‘Books for Dessert’ program has championed the idea that literacy for individuals over the age of 21 with intellectual and developmental disabilities is important and achievable,” said ASCLA President Norma Blake. “’Books for Dessert’ is an outstanding example of local public library innovation and ingenuity, and the library is to be commended not only for developing this highly successful program, but also for developing a program guide to help other public libraries across the nation to replicate the program in their local communities.”
The “Digital Access Project” is a collaborative activity of the Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library (BTBL) and the Boston Public Library, with additional involvement from the Internet Archive of San Francisco. Through this joint initiative, patrons of the BTBL who are unable to read traditional printed text can quickly access print books available in the huge collection of the Boston Public Library within 24 hours. Access is made possible by the digital scanning of the print text in the scanning lab of the Internet Archive at the Boston Public Library, where a six-person staff uses semi-automated equipment to scan the requested book, page by page.
The file is subsequently converted into a copyright-protected DAISY (Digital Audio Information System) file that can only be accessed by eligible users of the NLSBPH (National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped) program network using a special digital key and authorized compatible digital players like the Victor Stream, the BookSense and the Bookport Plus. Within hours, the Internet Archive sends a Web link to Boston Public Library and it is forwarded back to Perkins indicating where the protected DAISY version of the book can be downloaded. Perkins staff download the book files from the provided link, and the Library then forwards the .zip file to the patron. The patron can then listen to it on their adaptive technology utilizing text-to-speech synthetic voice technology. In most cases, this process of converting a print book to an accessible DAISY file moves so efficiently that patrons receive access to the requested book within 24 hours.
“Using existing resources, the Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library and the Boston Public Library, along with the Internet Archive, are successfully demonstrating both the power of collaboration and the power of technology in making print library collections accessible to people with disabilities,” said Tom Blake, digital projects manager at the Boston Public Library.
“The technology used in this innovative project not only removes barriers to print access for patrons with disabilities, it delivers the final accessible product with great speed! This type of information integration is pivotal to our fast-paced society where ready access to information is vital for success in a 21st century world,” states Kim Charlson, director of the Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library.
This year’s awards will be presented at the ASCLA/COSLA Networking Party and Awards Reception, which will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m., Saturday, June 23, 2012 at one of the ALA Annual Conference hotels in Anaheim, Calif. All conference attendees are invited to this event, which will celebrate this year’s ASCLA award winners and also feature peer-to-peer networking activities. More information will be available at www.ala.org/asclain late spring.