• Fri, Oct 5 2007

Shhhhhh…… we’re in the library

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Books are not my son Charlie’s favorite things but he does like to go for a (fast) visit to the library. One reason we often have to keep visits short is that Charlie has a hard time not talking when we are there and I have to say “gotta be quiet” a few too many times. People look up at his too-loud “choose a book!” and, while they go back to whatever they are doing, I feel the need to rush us down to the children’s section. I was pleased to receive a message from a friend who is a librarian regarding INFOLINK, the Eastern New Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, which is seeking information about libraries that successfully created programs for children and adults with autism:

There is a strategic need for libraries to provide services in proactive and creative ways to children and adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. Successful, documented library models can serve as replicable programs across the New Jersey Library network. In response to this need, the INFOLINK Executive Board approved a Request for Proposal (RFP) at their meeting on September 19, 2007.

Infolink is seeking proposals for its program in “Welcoming Library Spaces for the Autism Community & Their Families” and I am curious as to what proposals might say, especially as Charlie is certainly more receptive to reading than he used to be. Two nights ago, we read two chapters of The Little Prince and, on his own, he repeated some sentences after me: “It looked like this” and “not a picture of a hat” and “‘ “Draw me a sheep!’”.

Does you library have any programs for special needs children? What kinds of programs would you like?


Photo courtesy of Karen54301 via Flickr.

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  • amy

    =) As the mother of a former colicky infant, I’d like a soundproofed library area for screaming kids. As in other people can’t hear them. There are very few quiet — really quiet, as in “you can read and think” quiet — public places anymore; the library used to be a sanctuary, but thanks to a generation of architects and librarians who aren’t so much into the reading part, as well as other social forces, that’s no longer true.

    I am all for accessibility. Just not at the price of public sanctuary. Build a separate building if necessary.

  • me

    hmmm…. you want quiet. stay home. if you have kids, then get babysitting outside your home, and stay home.

    personally, I work at an academic library and it has this nifty thing called MeLCat so I don’t have to truck my kids to the library – I bring the books home to them.

    no ideas on things for libraries, but bookstores could use carts (had to run back and forth across Schuler Books recently while waiting for the oldest, non autistic, to decide on a book. A woman thought all I needed to do was ask him to sit somewhere – yes, I know how to do that, that’s what my 22 month old was doing, until she decided it was a good idea to copy brother, in the opposite direction – I’m never entering the store without at least one stroller again.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Being an academic, I am grateful for the many online resources now available for my students (we were just looking at some today). My son has been to a number of college and university libraries, and enjoys walking in the aisles of the stacks. MeLCat sounds like a fine innovation; thanks for mentioning it.

  • amy

    “me”, you answer like someone with power at home and disposable income. The point of public quiet space is that even people who are not well-off get a place where they can read and think in peace.

    It is dismaying that so few people know that anymore.

    “Stay home” works if you are rich enough to live in a quiet neighborhood or well-insulated apartment, are rich enough to have other people watch your children, have authority to move them out of your house, and have children who are well-behaved and old enough to have outside care.

    It does not work if you are poor, a child, or otherwise without the authority to make other people in your house or building leave.

    The key word is “public”. As in “public library” and “public reading room.”

    I give silent thanks again to the NYPL and its wonderful Reading Room. When I lived in Providence, which has a miserable, loud, orphaned public library system and a tough, non-ed-respecting life in every neighborhood but Brown’s, I was appalled to find that Brown posted guards in front of its libraries so that the public could not walk in. No schoolkids allowed in to do homework in the quiet. I promised then that if I ever came into money, I’d buy a block of public memberships to the Brown libraries and distribute them to city schoolkids, writers, and others in need of some quiet for reading, writing, thinking. Two birds with one stone: Some Providence citizens get quiet for intellectual work, and the Brown community has to look at Providence, whether or not it feels like it just then.

  • amy

    Kristina, as much as Charlie enjoys the stacks, if he is loud, I hope you will take him out promptly. Research libraries are the only quiet public places left.

    And no, I don’t bring my daughter to quiet sections of the university library. We also leave quiet mostly-student/writer coffeehouses and libraries in general if she is loud. Promptly.

    (In general, I don’t understand the “other people should have to smile and put up with your loud kids/animals in quiet/adult areas” idea. I was at a presidential-candidate town hall the other day, the candidate was making a major policy speech, and some smiling lady was letting her two-year-old howl. The candidate got a laugh by working it into the speech, but the kid kept going, and the woman didn’t pick up the kid and step out. At points it was impossible to hear the candidate over the kid. I am not sure why the woman didn’t recognize that the hundreds of people there had not actually gathered in order to hear the child yell.)

  • back to infolink …

    yet another thread hijacked

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    amy, have you been visiting any libraries around New Jersey and heard us?

    It was my own college librarian who sent me the infolink announcement, and I think the responses are suggesting why proposals are needed!

  • amy

    No, Kristina, I haven’t been in a NJ library in many years. But you mention Charlie’s enthusiasm, and your trouble in keeping him quiet. I’m very serious about a separate wing or building for “loud readers” — for that matter, there’s chain bookstores, which often seem to combine bookstores with discotheques. I have no problem at all with people wanting a lively reading atmosphere, a book-market-play space. I just want that space quite, quite separate from the hush of a library.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    I don’t have any trouble keeping him quiet; he likes to talk!

  • amy

    Kristina, you said in the original post that you felt you had to keep saying “gotta be quiet.” Look, I have no problem with kids talking (or yelling, shrieking, repeating phrases endlessly, etc.; I cleaned through 20 minutes of “hungry hungry hippo, hungry hungry hippo, hungry hungry hippo” this morning, complete with acrobatics involving some sort of crashing on the bed, I made it my business not to look). I have a problem with kids’ — or anyone’s — doing it where it interferes with what other people are trying to do. Research library stacks are not the place for much more than a murmured conversation. There are plenty of other places where speaking normally is just fine. However, I know of no other public place where that lovely velvet quiet is the norm.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    I did indeed; he does love to talk!

  • http://compostermom.blogspot.com Daisy

    This is a difficult conflict: the balance between public access and regulating appropriate conduct. Our local public library is not silent, but is relatively quiet. The children’s section has a delightful buzz of “kid noise.” Amigo likes to check out books on tape and CD; we go in, check out, and go catch our bus.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    And it’s the balance that is a work in progress for us—- That said, there is at least one young man who works in the library shelving books, and he may be on the spectrum.

  • volunteer librarian

    I recently volunteered, for a long-spell, for a local Library at a private ASD day school. Although I, along with some other fine volunteers, was instrumental in making some much-needed changes to the environment, I leave feeling a bit disheartened at the prejudice that exists within the school itself. Some groups of kids ‘banned’ from checking-out books based on their diagnosis/school placement only. Parents of children in the “higher level” programs informing others that the Library is meant only for their children who attend the school, not for all attendees of the school. And on it went, with school administrators even showing their bigotry. I found “separate, but equal” being the rule at this renowned school, within the Library; among the technology resources; and within the entire school. I notice a comment from above (much earlier) that seems to be promoting the “separate, but equal” stance as well. I find that sentiment nothing more than a blatant violation of autistic citizens basic civil rights.

  • volunteer librarian

    I need to make one correction: The school where I volunteered is not “private”, it’s a public day-school and students are sent their from their districts and their districts pay the tuition.

    Also, I forgot to mention something rather ironic. One parent was griping about those groups of students, who were not enrolled in the school’s ‘top-tier academic programs’ but instead attended many of the school’s other academic or vocational, being permitted to use the school library. This parent’s feeling was that those students (who were not in the ‘highest-level’ ASD programs) should be sent to their neighborhood public library for school purposes and not be permitted to use or even enter their own school’s library.

  • amy

    Wow! That’s shocking, vl. (It also sounds not entirely legal.) What was their rationale?