Wednesday, May 22, 2019

ArtABILITY: Accessible After-Hours Discovery at the Library

view of open air lobby with sky lights and brown tile and carpet floor. There is a poster stand with a blue poster inside reading ArtABILITY next to a wood table with handouts and pencil holder. Ranges of shelving to the left and a service desk are in the background.


I love the month of May because that means our library is going to be filled with the wonderful artistic expressions of students in the Bloomfield Hills School District Art Show. We really wanted to make this fantastic art accessible for everyone in the community, so we held a sensory-friendly after-hours art appreciation event this past Friday. As with other sensory-friendly after-hours events we have held on Fridays, we kept the doors open upon closing at 6:30 pm exclusively for children, teens, and adults with disabilities along with their families. This gives people of all ages with disabilities the chance to explore the library and/or experience our sensory activities in a less crowded, low-stress, sensory-friendly environment, with visuals and a calming space in case of overstimulation. This is also a time when many feel more comfortable attending, as they can just be themselves. Whether it's stimming, loud tics or excited voices, this is a "no judgement (or shushing) zone." As one group of adults with intellectual disabilities was headed through the door and one of them spoke loudly in her excitement, the caregiver and others in the group looked at me with an apologetic glance. "No worries, that's what this night is for!" I said with equal excitement. 

We provided a visual guide to the evening's activities in the lobby, along with a survey and handouts to help attendees explore our two pieces of touchable library art: our sculpture "Quest" (an adult sitting on a bench peering at an excited child holding a book over head in the background of the top image in this post) and the Conant Elementary School Legacy Project tile mosaic.

table with 4 paper handouts and pencils in pencil holdersAn older child in wheelchair, next to an adult female, is touching a colorful tile mosaic with floral motif hanging on a brick wall.


We also provided an ASL interpreter, a tour of selected works in the art show with verbal description for attendees with visual impairment, sensory activities, and more tactile art activities. Tactile art included this fantastic flannel book of tactile representations of four works of art from the neighboring Cranbrook Art Museum. Our incredibly creative library intern, Lauren Aquilina, wrote to Cranbrook for permission to recreate these pieces from their collection for our ArtABILITY event and then created this tactile masterpiece using fabric, foam, glue, puffy paint, buttons, pipe cleaners and yarn.

a sign with visuals and instructions to touch tactile representations of 4 works of art from the Cranbrook Art Museum is in front of a red flannel book that has a sparkly hand over a blue and yellow square background. The top of the book reads 'Touchable Art.'

a two page layout with printed image of art by Alfred Jensen, titled Atlantis, Per II, 1965, on the left. On the right side is a tactile representation made of woven string in vertical lines of yellow, black, blue and reda two page spread with a printed image of the art work by Roy Lichtenstein, titled Modular Painting with Four Pencils, No. 7 from the Modern Series, 1970, on the left. There are images of 4 pencils. On the right side is a tactile representation made from puffy paint and flannel pieces in red, black, and blue to create a pencil shape point up

a two page spread with a print of the art work by Victor Vasarely, titled Toll (from the Permutations Series), 1965. There are 4 squares with yellow dots and small square shapes of yellow inside, arranged in a pattern. On the right side is a tactile representation with grey flannel square in the background and buttons in yellow, green, and black sewn in a square pattern
 a two page spread with a print of the artwork by Nicholas Krushenick, titled The Battle of Bull Run, 1963, on the left. It is an image with arcs of blue and yellow at the top with an orange, yellow lines crossing each other with red looping shapes in an arc over the lines. On the right is a tactile representation of this image using pipe cleaners in the same colors and patterns


Our activities in the Youth Services Room included light table play, a very cool sensory painting activity from librarian Patricia Ballard, spring time discovery bin and textured paint play from librarian Andy Lebeck, and a cool-down space for those seeking a little sensory break.

A poster titled Youth Services Highlights, with 4 visuals in squares: arts and crafts, sensory activity, browsing collection, and person relaxing in cool-down spacewood light table with colorful translucent blocks, letters, numbers, and pyramid shapes

arms and hands shown working on paintings, using paint tools at a table with glue, paint, and tools in the centertwo black frames with colorful paint in swirl patterns


two-sided sensory bin. The left side has black beans, plastic bugs and plastic flowers. The right side has water, foam fish, and small nets



We turned our story room into a cool-down space for sensory breaks. 
The lights are dimmed and there are some tools provided to help with self-regulation, such as fidgets and weighted lap pads for people seeking sensory input and a pop-up tent (tall enough for adults) and sound-cancelling headphones for sensory avoiders. 


metal stand with poster of figure reclining, with the words Cool-Down Space written above

looking down long blue folding table with lap pads and fidgets on top, beside wall of various geometric shaped windowsround blue folding table with 4 sound cancelling headphones and sign saying "Too Much Stimulation?" on top


sign on top of blue table saying "Need to cool down? Choose a fidget or lap pad to help. There are also four images: fidget, person with lap pad, person saying "I'm okay," and hand squeezing a yellow ball

long blue table with fidgets and timer on topblue pop-up tent with yellow stars on carpeted floor next to 3 orange and pink pillows to the left and a green cushion to the right



Our special guest Caroline Braden, Accessibility Specialist at The Henry Ford, brought tactile activities to learn about the art of "Things That Go." People could wander into our Magazine Room to touch/feel miniature versions of the famous modes of transportation housed at The Henry Ford Museum, put together automobile pieces in a small assembly line and then put together an automobile craft to take home.


Poster in stand with words at the top: The Art of "Things That Go." There are four squares with images inside: The Henry Ford logo, a person pointing to red box, images of 3 modes of transportation, and arts and crafts tools

wood table with small figures of transportationa set of hands working with small plastic parts of an automobile model

four sets of hands working with various art materials to create automobile craft at wood table


People could wander into the Adult Services area to design marshmallow structures, provided by Adult Services librarian, Ed Niemchak, who I will be introducing as a blog partner on here very soon!! Ed will be blogging about adaptive programming for teens and adults, including his monthly sensory story times at the BTPL. Yeah, Ed!

two children creating structures with marshmallows and toothpicks at a white table


At 7 pm, a group of 8 met me in the lobby to head to our Community Room for a tour of 10 selected works in the student art show. I provided detailed verbal description to be inclusive of those who are blind or have low vision. 

looking into a large open room with panels of art work in frames and pedestals for sculptures



Here is one of my favorites from the students at the Wing Lake Developmental Center:


Image description: "Recycled Cap Flower" Medium used: cardboard with plastic bottle and jar caps. 18 x 6 inch rectangle cardboard background presented vertically and centered over vertical black board frame. The cardboard is spray painted green and blue. Over the cardboard background is a 3 dimensional flower shape. Creating the shape of a flower at the top are 23 yellow bottle caps in various 1 - 1 1/2 inch circular shapes with a large 3 inch white jar top in the center. Moving down from the flower top, there are 17 green circular bottle caps, 1 to 2 inches in diameter, trailing down to create a stem shape.


And of course, our attendees could also check out materials with our Head of Circulation, Anna Pelepchuk, at the Circulation desk! 

person peering over computer at desk with the word circulation on the front. In front of the desk is an easel holding a poster with an image of a person checking out a book at the desk with a librarian


Thanks also goes to Head of Youth Services, Marian Rafal, for greeting our attendees at the door and Pages Heather Coffee-Borden and Jessica Doroslovac for assisting with our activities! These after-hours events may not draw in big attendance numbers, but we are so glad to see the faces we don't see on a consistent basis. This was their time to explore art, literature and more in an accessible, low-stress environment.




Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Inclusion is more than accommodation: a tour of the Mary Idema Pew Library

Exterior of large building     

The Special Needs Services Roundtable (SNSR) of Michigan librarians working with children, teens, and adults with disabilities, took a field trip for a spring meeting at the incredible Mary Idema Pew Library (Grand Valley State University). Thank you to Annie Belanger, Dean of University Libraries, for hosting and leading us in a discussion on Accessible Customer Service and Planning with Accessibility in Mind. 

Annie's presentation key takeaways included:
  • Implementing accessibility in your planning from the start
  • Accessing your design plans for accessibility barriers
  • Skills needed to make a project accessible, e.g., Universal Design for Learning
  • Conducting an audit of development plans, policies, practices, and procedures to identify gaps in light of the four principles of accessibility: Dignity, Independence, Integration, and Equal Opportunity
  • Determining your vision and approach
  • Developing new or revised policies/guidelines
  • Gathering feedback and approval (especially from the disability community)
  • Implementing new policies, procedures and practices (shared publicly in an accessible manner)

After the presentation, Hannah, a GVSU student and User Experience Team Member at the Mary Idema Pew Library, took us on a tour. Hannah told us that user experience staff roam the library every hour assisting students and faculty, observing use of spaces, and populating data on the interactive pedestal displays on each level. These pedestal displays assist with wayfinding and indicate computer station availability, study room availability, and library traffic levels in seating areas on each level. 

Interactive screen display showing computer availability, meeting room availability, crowd-size in study spaces, and customer satisfaction emojis

Assessing crowd levels can be a wonderful tool for people who may experience overstimulation in more populated settings. Students can also check out some of the library's "Focus Tools" to help with focus and self-regulation. Feedback generated from a neurodiverse student body, including a focus group of autistic GVSU students, initiated the circulation of these Tools, which include weighted lap pads, noise-canceling headphones, reading overlays, fidgets and more.

Screen with images of focus tools: wobble cushions, tinted reading overlays, doodle board

Service desk with computer, keyboard, and totes with focus tools for circulation


Screen with images of focus tools including stress eggs, weighted lap pads, tangle fidgets, and noise-canceling headphones

The Library is inclusive of all learning styles, providing a variety of seating arrangements depending on whether a person prefers studying alone, alone/together, quiet enclosed study rooms, or in larger group collaboration. Not pictured are also height-adjustable tables for library users who prefer or need to be working while standing, but may also be adjusted for seated users. An abundance of natural light is found throughout the library, along with refurbished wood interspersed to help absorb sound. Though we didn't notice until it was brought to our attention, a soothing white noise being projected on one of the levels to help mask collaborative sounds certainly succeeded in its task. Here are just a few of the many different seating arrangements we found:

Seating area with two cozy chairs and small table in center
Smaller 1 - 1 groupings


Cozy nook with cushioned bench, surrounding walls, and movable tables
Cozy nooks with movable tables


Single seat with enclosure and small table tray extended
                       Single seat enclosures with pull-out table tray


outside courtyard with tables and chairs underneath hanging beams
Quiet, natural respite found in the center courtyard of the Library



Glass enclosed silent study reading room with tables, chairs, window benches in background
One of the silent study/reading rooms



square table with movable stools and white boards on wheels in the background

Movable white boards and white board walls found in collaborative areas


Two modern cozy chairs with pull-up tables



two cozy arm chairs with square table in center beside window


view of outside terrace with tables, chairs, and overview of campus
More beautiful, natural respite found on the top level terrace


bench seating along windows and movable tables


tablet beneath meeting room reserve sign with Braille underneath
Popular meeting rooms can be reserved online.


There are so many other great examples, including the fantastic collaboration areas, which were all occupied by many students so I was not able to take photos. Hannah told us that the larger tables with 4 - 5 cozy chairs were the most popular seating arrangement, as students like to spread their books/materials out while working. You can check out more of these arrangements pictured on their website.


The Library's linear layout, interactive digital pedestal displays, text support, and large pop-out call letters in the browsable collections assist students of all abilities with independent wayfinding.

acrylic sign for text support in librarystack range of books with pop-out call number letters



Students are also provided with creativity-sparking (and/or stress-relieving) toys in the large collaboration space.

Jump-start your creativity acrylic sign in front of building toys on shelf


shelves of building toys: Lego, tinker toys, blocks



Students can also head to the Knowledge Market to meet with highly-trained student peer consultants to work on their writing skills, presentation style, and researching strategies.




While humanities books and high-use books in the sciences and social sciences are out on the floor, the majority of the Library's books are housed in an automated storage/retrieval system which students and faculty can request online and pick up at the service desk within minutes. This space savings allows for more space dedicated to student needs. This amazing system is where we ended our tour. 

automated storage retrieval crane and stacks of book storage drawers



As we left to collect our things, we observed students studying, researching, collaborating, creating, and socializing in a student-focused library. In addition to the incorporation of assistive technologies throughout the Mary Idema Pew Library, staff are constantly observing and evaluating how students of all abilities are using spaces and how their experience can be improved upon. A model of inclusion for all academic, public, special, and K-12 school libraries to take a look at. 

open multi-level atrium space with students seated in ollaborative seating arrangements below







Thursday, March 21, 2019

SENSEational Story Time: "Nighttime"














This month we explored the sights, sounds, and feeling of nighttime. I was excited to incorporate some of the fun activities put together by Meagan K. Shedd, PhD, and the Library of Michigan's Youth Services Advisory Council for the Ready to Read Michigan 2019 title Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson. I love using Christie Matheson's interactive books in story time, and the experience is even better when using a set of board books for every child and caregiver to interact with.

Here's the plan:

Visual schedule with activity images


1. Hello!


2. Welcome song: "The Story Time Ball"
tune: "Wheels on the Bus"
(Roll ball back and forth to each child)
The story time ball rolls back and forth,
back and forth, back and forth.
The story time ball rolls back and forth,
Let's see who it found. Hi ______!
Now roll it back to me.
(Keep rolling back and forth until each child has said their name.)


3. Yoga pose: "Star pose" 
After mindful breathing in and out, feeling the stretch to all five points, let's count those five points on our body! With our arms and legs extended out, we can touch our (left) hand, head, (right) hand. Now reach down and touch your (left) foot, and (right) foot.


4. Finger puppet rhyme: "4 Little Stars"
(using 4 star finger puppets)

4 star finger puppets
Four little stars winking at me,
one shot off and then there were three.
Three little stars with nothing to do,
one shot off and then there were two.
Two little stars afraid of the sun,
one shot off and then there was one.
One little star not having any fun,
it shot off and then there were none!
(source: Child's Play)


5. Story: Night Owl by Toni Yuly
Before reading, I gave each child one of the animals or things creating a sound in the story to place on the magnetic board when we heard its sound in the story.

laminated owl, frog, woodpecker, train, grasshopper, and storm cloud shapes


6. Stretch band rhyme: "Bend and Stretch"
Bend and stretch, reach for the stars.
(bend down and reach up high, pulling your stretch band up to the sky)
There goes Jupiter, here comes Mars.
(reach out left to Jupiter and right to Mars, stretching out to both sides)
Bend and stretch, reach for the sky.
(bend down and reach up high, pulling your stretch band up to the sky)
Stand on tip-e-toe, oh! So high!
(standing on your toes, or pointing with your toes if seated, pull stretch band high to the sky)
(Source: Child's Play)


7. Interactive Story: Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson
We used our board book set to read and interact together. After reading the story, I got out some of the (enlarged and laminated) activity cards in the Ready to Read Michigan guide and had each child choose a card. 
laminated activity cards that say blink, count, touch, pat, and tap

For the touch (the fireflies) card, I had each child touch/feel and squeeze our firefly finger puppet, watching as it lights up each time it's squeezed.

Firefly fingerpuppet

For the Pat (the deer) card, I had each child "pat" the soft deer puppet.

hand holding firefly puppet next to a deer puppet

We tapped (the tree), counted (the stars), and blinked our eyes as we found the brightest star on the flannel board (next to the moon in the nighttime sky!).

Flannel board with 3 stars, a nighttime scene, and a tree


8. Parachute activity: "Zoom, Zoom, Zoom"
Zoom, zoom, zoom
I'm going to the moon.
If you want to take a trip,
Climb aboard my rocket ship.
Zoom, zoom, zoom
I'm going to the moon!
(Raise and lower parachute - raising really high when you go to the moon.)


9. Goodbye song and stretch: "Tickle the Clouds"
Tickle the clouds.
Tickle your toes.
Turn around and tickle your nose.
Reach down low.
Reach up high.
Story time's over.
Wave goodbye!


10. Play and discovery time: light panel play with some colorful animals we may see or hear at night and exploring sounds around the world at nighttime

Light panel with colorful shapes of a bird, dog, elephant, and fish


After playing with our animal shapes on the light panels and making each animal's sound (or talking about how some animals are pretty quiet, like the fish), we gathered in front of our interactive touch screen panel and explored the different sounds heard around the world in the nighttime with this very cool Nature Sound Map site. You can touch any of the pinpoints on the map to hear an actual recording of nature in that location. This was a big hit!

Computer screen with world map, pinpoints, and a sound window pop-up of the desert night sounds in  Australia