2009 ASCLA/KLAS/NOD award-winning project educates librarians about autism

Contact: Liz Markel

Marketing Specialist, RUSA/ASCLA

(312) 280-4398



For Immediate Release

April 7, 2009

“Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected,” a project developed by Margaret Kolaya, director, Scotch Plains Public Library (N.J.) and Daniel Weiss, director, Fanwood Memorial Library (N.J.), has been selected as the 2009 winner of the ASCLA/KLAS/NOD Award.

The award is sponsored by the
Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA), Keystone Systems and the National Organization on Disability (NOD). Winners are honored for innovative and well organized projects that have successfully developed or expanded library services for people with disabilities.

“The ‘Libraries and Autism’ project has launched a virtual campaign to make libraries aware of people on the autism spectrum and, most notably, to train librarians to assist this growing and underserved population,” said Kathleen Hegarty, awards committee chair. “State sponsorship, able project leadership, the involvement of the autism community and highly effective promotion have contributed to the success of an initiative that has had a national impact.”

Using multiple media and a variety of learning formats, “Libraries and Autism” educates librarians, library staff and school media specialists about autism. The project’s website,
www.thejointlibrary.org/autism, offers extensive resources on the disorder, including print and non-print materials, Web sites and organizations. A training video demonstrates behavior traits of autism and techniques to communicate effectively with and cultivate positive library experiences for patrons with autism. The video is enriched with expert commentary from Dr. Linda Meyers, executive director at the New Jersey Center for Outreach and Services for the Autism Community (COSAC), Dr. Jill Harris, director of psychology and coordinator of the Autism Center of Excellence at the Specialized Children’s Hospital (N.J.) and Adrienne Robertiello of the Community Partnership for People with Autism.

The project also includes resources on the Web site for implementing the project at your library including a list of workshop consultants, a non-verbal communication tool, customer service tips, publicity logos and a storybook template—“This is My Library”—that a library can customize to provide a visual pre-visit library tour for a child with autism. Libraries participating in the project can request a “Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected” decal for the library front door or window.

“Libraries and Autism” grew out of the “Welcoming Library Spaces for the Autism Community and Their Families” incubator project, which was made possible by a contract with
INFOLINK: The Eastern New Jersey Regional Library Cooperative. The Cooperative and its services are funded by the New Jersey State Library, which is responsible for the coordination, promotion and funding of the New Jersey Library Network.Â

Kolaya and Weiss will accept their award—a citation and $1,000 cash prize contributed by Keystone Systems—at the beginning of the ASCLA President’s Program on Sunday, July 12, during the ALA Annual Conference, which is being held July 9-15, 2009 in Chicago. The exact location of the program will be announced on the
ASCLA blog in late spring.

Libraries interested in implementing the project in their community should contact project managers Meg Kolaya or Dan Weiss at
autism@thejointlibrary.org or call (908) 322-6400 or (908) 322-5007, ext. 202.

ASCLA, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), is a diverse organization of librarians and support staff who work in academic and public libraries, state agencies, specialized libraries and multi-type cooperatives, as well as those who are self-employed.
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