Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Appendix A: What Is the State of Adaptive Technology in Libraries Today?

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Appendix A: What Is the State of Adaptive Technology in Libraries Today?

Article excerpt

Many times writers advocate for causes that seem altruistic and unobtainable to the masses. On some occasions these writers appear evangelistic. To temper those viewpoints, the author also interviewed librarians and patrons to determine what is available in libraries.

To that end she requested a colleague, Everyl Yankee, to locate libraries that provide computers and Internet services, along with training for the special populations discussed in this work. Yankee then contacted them to determine:

* The types of adaptive technology that are being used by patrons

* How libraries planned for the technology

* How staff were trained and the type of training the library offered patrons

* Successful marketing tips

* Successful funding strategies

* Overall tips for success

The libraries covered the spectrum of possibilities in regard to size and location. Staff of both public and academic libraries agreed to share the information with their colleagues.

Yankee also talked to patrons with disabilities, some of whom were older, to determine what they feel makes a successful library experience. She also solicited input on if and how they used the library and the library's website.

The patrons interviewed were students, middle-aged workers, and seniors. Some used libraries because they were readers; some just wanted to find the information they needed. The readers represented a good cross-section of North America.

Many appreciated the opportunity to tell librarians what was right or wrong about the state of libraries as well as to offer suggestions for improvement. Yet some did not want to waste their time chatting since didn't think anything was in it for them.

The information Yankee gathered is abridged in the following pages. Although this survey was not conducted scientifically, it gives a picture of part of the real world.

Patrons are generally disillusioned with their libraries

Overall, patrons did not expect much from their libraries. Some felt that they were disconnected from the library because they had special needs. A few comments follow:

   "They are looking for older adults to use the library, but (some)
   rooms are not accessible if you have a walker."

   "We have one room on campus for accessibility; it has equipment and
   software, but it's always locked and impossible to schedule access
   to it ... can't fit a wheelchair under a computer table...."

   "I'm barber shop singer--we met in a senior citizen complex where
   they had a room called 'library,' with a large CCTV viewer. It was
   the first and only time I'd ever seen one anywhere for use of
   senior citizens."

Do not expect patrons to request adaptive equipment

When patrons were asked if they have requested adaptive equipment in their libraries, their replies were evenly split. A few patrons (younger in age) acknowledged that they should be doing more self-advocacy. Others who did advocate expressed disappointing feedback.

   "I was told 'it's too expensive and not enough people would use
   it.'" (academic library, adult college student)

   "The library did have some AT, in particular a large-screen monitor
   that could be used to access the Internet. As of March 1, 2004, I
   was told it would no longer be available as finances were limited.
   To date there has been no resolution. As a result we have vowed to
   form an organized group in opposition of any levy campaign that the
   library may place on the ballot."

Patrons speak on the importance of technical service staff

The biggest problem experienced by those whose library had adaptive technology was lack of technical support. For many patrons, not having technical staff who understood how and why the equipment was used, as well as knowing how to fix the equipment, was as bad as not having the equipment. …

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