Doing big things with small budgets is not an easy task. But Vicky Varga, the current branch services and collections director of Edmonton Public Library (EPL), is not letting that stand in her way. EPL is researching how to enhance their accessibility services and better serve their patrons’ needs in an environment where those needs often evolve.
EPL offers great services such as home delivery, various assisted technologies, and flexible loan times for patrons with print or cognitive disabilities. With a goal to expand into more inclusive services and programs, EPL plans to connect with community members and focus on building relationships.
EPL’s Accessibility Services
Edmonton offers some great accessibility services for its patrons, including:
- Longer loan periods for patrons with print and/or cognitive disabilities.
- Assisted technologies, exp: DAISY talking books.
- Offers deliveries to homebound patrons.
- Captions used in online programming.
Why Home Services Matter at EPL
The home delivery service provided by Edmonton Public Library ensures that even homebound patrons- whether they live in their own homes or an assisted living facility- have consistent access to library materials. This service coincides with EPL’s value statements to the community. Doing big things with small budgets is not an easy task. EPL goes out of its way to make its resources accessible to those who cannot make it out to the library themselves, emphasizing how Edmonton values free access to materials. The patrons who utilize these services have a good connection with the library and appreciate all the hard work that goes into making it possible. In addition, patrons who require extra time with their materials are granted a longer loan time to ensure their services are flexible and accessible for the individual.
The library also loans out DAISY talking books to patrons. Accessible Digital Talking Books (DTBs) are an assisted technology that uses digital files of printed books to produce an accessible way for blind, visually impaired, or print-disabled patrons to experience literature. The technology uses digital audio recordings of human or synthetic speech that reads the text to the patron. By lending DAISY machines out as test runs, patrons can decide for themselves if it’s worth investing in the technology for their home.
A Year of Research
While it’s easy to see that patrons with visual or print disabilities have benefited greatly from these services, some work could still be done to improve the variety of services. Varga confessed that there hasn’t been a good engagement with patrons who have non-print-related disabilities. However, that is what they will be working towards next.
Varga’s first step is to begin with an internal inventory of the currently best-received practices and then following that up with an external environment scan. By looking at what other libraries are doing, Edmonton can gauge ideas, find ways to add services and see what can be done to improve the current ones. With a focus on improving their physical spaces, like installing hearing loops at the desks to amplify sound for patrons with hearing aids, and programming, EPL intends to expand inclusivity and accessibility.
This year, Edmonton Public Library will reach out to community members and focus on building relationships with organizations serving people with disabilities. As a product of this research, Vicky hopes to see improved communications with these communities and more inclusive programming and accessibility services coming in 2024 to serve a variety of needs.
The Learning Continues
Edmonton Public Library is doing great things in terms of accessibility for their communities that will only get better as more time passes and more research and communication are established in the community. While looking not just at expanding new accessibility services but also thinking about accessibility in relation to services such as the gamer and maker spaces or the teaching kitchen. Navigating the different needs and expectations of patrons can be tricky, but that’s why continuing research on the topic is exactly what libraries should be doing.
If your library is interested in connecting and sharing ideas, please contact Vicky Varga at email@example.com.