Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Resources for Serving Special Populations

Welcome mat
Libraries welcome everyone (Pixabay)
Public libraries are seen as egalitarian institutions that are welcoming to everyone. While libraries are in theory open and accessible to all, the fact is that some members of our communities have difficulty utilizing the library. The barriers that prevent these community members from using the library are not always readily apparent.  There are many reasons why an individual or group's use of the library might be limited, minimized, or difficult.  

Kansas State Library ADA Compliance Checklist
Kansas State Library ADA Compliance Checklist
In terms of accessibility, we often think of physical access, and consider library users with physical disabilities. For public libraries considering ADA legislation, the Kansas State Library offers a handy online Compliance Checklist for reviewing issues such as signage, stacks, and furniture placement. 

Serving Special Populations 
However, accessibility should be considered more broadly than physical access. In Wisconsin, we refer to library users that need special consideration as "special populations" and the services to these groups or individuals as "special services."  The Public Library Development Team compiled an online resource called Serving Special Populations to assist public libraries and systems in planning, implementing, and evaluating services for special populations, offer a range of resources and strategies useful to all size public libraries no matter where they are located in Wisconsin, and provide information unique to Wisconsin.

While we are often focused on who is using the library (circulation statistics, program counts), it is in our community's best interest to continually assess who is NOT using the public library.  The Compliance Checklist and Serving Special Populations are two online tools to help libraries evaluate who they are missing and why.