There are many inequities that can prevent library users from accessing virtual programs. From lack of or inadequate technology or wifi to the skill level or comfort using technology. One of the most exhaustive barriers for most libraries is funding. In order to put IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access) into practice, there has to be a reasonable budget to allow for actionable accommodations for the needs of library users.
It isn’t easy to overcome all of the inequities that prevent library users from accessing virtual library programs, but the goal is to make every effort to Include everyone, Diversify programs for diverse folks with varying skill levels and abilities, and provide Equitable Access to technology needed to bridge the digital divide. Listed below are just a few recommendations that can assist libraries overcome barriers.
- Interpreters or live captioning
The high cost of hiring a trained interpreter to interpret at every event is unreasonable.
- Tap into existing resources
- Curate a list of library staff who speak additional languages, including American Sign Language (ASL) within your library organization and/or other nearby libraries. Library staff from the curated list can be used to interpret at live virtual events or prerecording sessions. The recorded programs can be hosted on the websites of all participating libraries.
- Use community volunteers
- Community volunteers are a great resource. Note that participating volunteers should be vetted and approved to ensure their interpretation is accurate, and to prevent any miscommunication or misrepresentation of the library.
- Technology, which includes virtual event platforms, laptops/tablets, tech support for library staff and library users
Having tech support for some libraries isn’t an option due to budget constraints. For library systems with tech support, oftentimes tech support is stretched thin and is unable to provide adequate support.
- Educate library users. Create short videos and instruction guides on subjects such as: using a library laptop/tablet, connecting to wifi hotspots, how to join programs via Zoom/Youtube/Facebook, how to access on-demand programs, and the top technology issues and how to fix them.
- Share resources with nearby or other system libraries. Co-host events so a tech person or responsible staff member can monitor one live event.
- Instead of hiring a tech person, pay for the training of one or a few library staff members to get tech training.
- Use existing staff who are familiar with virtual platforms. For example, create an Emerging Technology committee. This will use existing staff to explore technology that will be vital in post-pandemic programming, especially hybrid programming. Committees can engage staff members of all classifications.
3. Diverse programming for diverse patrons
Duplicating programs for specific library users, such as neurodiverse patrons and/or disabled patrons can prove time consuming.
- Pre-record programs using sensory friendly colors, techniques, voice tone, supplies and more.
- Host a virtual movie viewing with closed captioning.
- Host a Book Read. A book of choice is read aloud for those who are unable to read and includes captioning to help others follow along.
- Easy arts and crafts programs with large size supply items that are easier to manipulate are a great solution for all patrons.
4. Resource scarcity
Libraries may not have the resources or supplies for multiple events or the number of patrons who attend virtual programming.
- Host programs that utilize household everyday materials, easy to find supplies or dollar store supplies.
- Host a supply donation drive. Solicit the community in efforts to provide quality programming to all.