Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Thinking About Outreach? Consider an LSTA Accessibility Grant

In about a month’s time, the 2016 Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Information & Guidelines document will be published (June 2015).  This resource will outline the grant categories and application information available for the 2016 year.  A longstanding grant category is “Serving Special Populations” which includes two sub-categories: Accessibility and Literacy.

Historically, the Accessibility sub-category has been utilized by public libraries and library systems to provide devices and services that accommodate library users with physical disabilities; i.e. screen reader software. However, library users with physical disabilities are only one of many groups that might be considered “special populations.” This term is not perfect, but is more inclusive than the problematic “special needs.”

Image of crowd
Whose library use might be difficult, limited, or minimized?
Image source: Pixabay
In recent years, stemming from developments at both the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Public Library Development Team (PLDT) at the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the definition and awareness of who special populations are and how they might be served has expanded.

Serving Special Populations Accessibility grants support the quality of and access to library and information services to people for whom using the library is difficult, limited, or minimized. Library and information services can be considered in terms of library spaces, communications, programming, outreach, and resources.  Improvement can be considered in terms of accommodations, assistive technology or techniques, design, inclusive practices, and planning.   

Defining and identifying special populations depends on each library community.  Special populations include, but are not limited to, English Language Learners, people who are homeless and/or live in poverty, people who are displaced or live in residential care, foster care, detention, or treatment facilities, people in underserved areas or with diverse backgrounds, people with disabilities, and people with limited literacy or information skills.

When the 2016 Information & Guidelines document is released next month, consider how the public library, in collaboration with other public libraries and/or library systems, might develop a plan or a project to establish or enhance outreach to a special population.  Rather than make assumptions about who you are serving and what they might need, a planning grant (Level 0) offers funding support that may be used to investigate the quality of and access to library and information services to special populations.  Planning grants support efforts to define and identify a community’s special population(s) and their (potential) accessibility issues.  Planning funds may be used for site visits, consulting fees, professional development, input gathering, and similar focused efforts.

Level 1 and 2 project grant funds may be used to improve library and information services to special populations through library spaces, communications, programming, and resources. Project funds may be used to fund translation services, materials in alternate formats, outreach transportation, equipment, or technologies that improve quality of and access to library and information services to special populations.

Approximately $75,000 will be available in the Accessibility sub-category. Get the wheels turning now for how you might put a plan or project in motion for a 2016 LSTA grant. 

For more information about Serving Special Populations, visit: http://pld.dpi.wi.gov/pld_ssp

For more information about LSTA, visit: http://pld.dpi.wi.gov/pld_lsta

Written by:
Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, Public Library Development Team