By Christina C. Wray

The Illinois State Library has been awarded a National Leadership Forum grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to help begin a national conversation on improving library services for patrons with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).  Their project, called Targeting Autism, is led by a partnership of the State Library, The Autism Program of Illinois and Waymark Systems.  The Autism Program of Illinois is a state-wide collaboration of independent agencies that work to provide access to support service as well as education and vocational opportunities to Illinois residents on the Autism spectrum.   Waymark Systems, an Illinois based company dedicated to enabling stakeholder alignment in complex systems, will be compiling a stakeholder mapping tool from data collected by surveying ASD organizations, state agencies, educators, medical professionals and members of the ASD community to help libraries better understand the needs of patrons with ASD as well as community partners they can collaborate with to provide the best possible services.  The goal of this project is to develop a model program for creating partnerships with non-library stakeholders for the purpose of providing support, not only to the ASD community, but also a variety of special needs populations.

The project will run from November 1, 2014 through October 31, 2015.  The cornerstone of the project will be two multi-day forums, which take place at the Illinois State library, and bring together participants from across the United States and Canada to discuss how libraries can create community partnerships and engage patrons with ASD.  The first forum took place on March 4-5, 2015.  During this meeting, librarians, educators and service providers got together with the goals of:

  • Building a shared appreciation of the challenges and opportunities associated with acquiring information on ASD
  • Identifying leadership roles for community libraries in improving community supports/services for individuals with ASD
  • Begin fostering stakeholder alignment around a community library ASD initiative
  • Begin developing a shared vision of success for a state library initiative on ASD
  • Identify next steps

Participants not only had the opportunity to discuss challenges and opportunities, they were also treated to informative presentations from leaders in the field of libraries and Autism, including Dan Weiss from the Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected project and authors Barbara Klipper and Lesley Farmer.   Participants also heard from professors at some of our leading library education universities on how LIS programs are preparing future librarians to better serve patrons with ASD.  The second day highlighted community partners from parent support specialist to special educators and community supports agencies.

For more information about this exciting project check out:

The Targeting Autism information site (

The Targeting Autism Blog (

Feature Image: Water on Mars?  It Sure is a Puzzle by Gunnar Þór Gunnarsson