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Getting to Know the Library in ASL

Ottawa Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Marcia Aronson, OPL Manager Diversity and Accessibility Services, marcia.aronson@biblioottawalibrary.ca

Problem Statement

Until now there have been no resources available in American Sign Language (ASL) to introduce Deaf adult learners to the public library.

Innovation

In 2009, the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) and the Ottawa Community Coalition for Literacy (OCCL) partnered to produce a resource for Deaf and Deaf-blind learners called Getting to Know the Library in ASL (American Sign Language). With our project consultant, the Ottawa Deaf Centre, we produced a 35-minute video version of our manual Getting to Know the Library. The Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities provided the funding. It is available in English and French on the OPL website. Getting to Know the Library in ASL is streaming live on OCCL’s website. It is full of activities that introduce Deaf learners to the library. This innovative resource is backed up by additional mini videos on topics including Deaf-blind Resources, Books in the Library and Express Checkout and Receipts as well as a number of print-based activities. The project’s coordinator and the videographer came up with the innovative idea of creating the mini videos to make it possible to use almost all of the footage shot during filming. The material on the website is also available on DVD and includes optional captions for viewers who are not fluent in American Sign Language (ASL).

Progress

The activities in Getting to Know the Library in ASL familiarize learners with all aspects of library services and how to use them. The DVD is available free of charge to any library or literacy organization. The video helps Deaf learners to become comfortable in public libraries. It stresses that repeated visits and integrated activities encourage learners to become lifelong users of the library thus giving them ongoing access to a wealth of resources and breaking down some of the barriers they may encounter. Literacy and library skills are embedded in the activities so that learners pick up the skills without conscious effort. In the video they ask questions about the library and have them answered.

Becoming comfortable with the library and its services will benefit Deaf and Deaf-blind adult learners and their families in many ways. They will have access to computers, the Internet and information services as well as the opportunity to meet and interact with people in the community. The step-by-step explanations also make the video a great self-learning tool.

Adult literacy programs in Canada, including those for Deaf learners, have been integrating the nine Essential Skills identified by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada into learners’ training plans and learning activities. Getting to Know the Library in ASL offers learners the opportunity to acquire and reinforce most of the Essential Skills they will need in the workplace and in their personal lives even as they learn about the library.