Libraries and Reading: Services for Patrons with Intellectual Disability (ID)
This presentation will distill a book length study on this topic by the presenter that was published in 2020. The topic deals with library services for those with ID, a population whose case has large implications for the profession as a whole. ID is defined as a condition of intelligence quotient (IQ) of 70 or below together with significant difficulties in learning, communication, and self-care. Insofar as diversity, equity, and inclusion involve redressing disadvantages, no population is more deserving of attention than those with ID. However, they also represent almost insuperable challenges to serve. Notwithstanding technological change, the mission of libraries remains to provide textual information: reading. So how does one serve individuals who not only have limited or nonexistent reading skills but face large obstacles to acquiring those skills? Coupled with a lack of training in special education together with a pervasive strain imposed by reduced budgets, the difficulties facing the library are considerable. On the other hand, ignoring this population implies that diversity has a limit and that certain groups fall outside the library’s area of responsibility. This dilemma promises to define the profession’s capabilities and values. After reviewing both the history of library services and the social and educational plight of those with ID, the presentation will summarize a case study of the first book club for those with ID at an academic library. This club has modeled itself on a grass-roots initiative in special education called The Next Chapter Book Club. Its rationale will appear familiar to librarians as a version of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a prominent topic of library conferences and literature, which promotes different learning styles. The talk will provide a detailed history, methodology, assessment methods, data, and best practices derived from the experience. These practices, spanning issues of collection, pedagogy, and research practice will appear surprisingly familiar to librarians. They underscore the conclusion that despite a history of underperformance in this area, librarians are well-equipped to serve this historically marginalized population and, in doing so, validate their core principles of service and their expanded commitment to instruction.