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Wednesday Club

Contra Costa County Library

Innovation Leader: Kathy Middleton, Senior Community Library Manager, kmiddlet@ccclib.org

Problem Statement

Groups of adults with developmental disabilities meet often and regularly in the Antioch Library. The groups often keep to themselves and seldom leave one area of the library. Although library staff wants to provide a welcome learning environment, no training or model exists for the planning or implementation programs for adults with developmental disabilities.

Groups of adults with developmental disabilities meet in the Antioch Library for several hours each visit, two or three days a week. On a broader scale many public libraries have become the regular meeting place for community-based groups of adults with developmental disabilities. The groups that visit Antioch Library are led by ARC Inroads of Contra Costa, a 100% community-based program that teaches independent living skills; they have no home base. Library staff noticed in 2007 that when the group visited the library many adults appeared bored and uninterested; others slept. Staff had never approached the group and no one from the group had ever approached staff, yet the ARC Inroads groups were some of the largest and most frequent visitors in the library. Untrained in providing programs for adults with developmental disabilities, library staff guessed that if the group was made to feel welcome and comfortable using library resources, they would begin to enjoy and find new opportunities for learning there, but after researching the topic, no related model was found. Innovation in unknown territory would be required.

Innovation

Development of monthly library programs for adults with disabilities
After meeting with ARC Inroads staff, a library tour was planned. Its purpose was to encourage adults with developmental disabilities to feel comfortable and welcome in the library. ARC Inroads staff suggested that we talk about fines and demonstrate library equipment since many of their participants were confused about those processes. During the first tour, every area of the library was investigated and the following phrase used, “This is your library.” Simple and important information was discussed in a friendly way and questions were encouraged. We talked about how: to use the self-service machines; ask questions at the information desk; to get the key to the restroom. In addition we led the groups to the behind-the-scenes workroom, where introductions to the collection, as well as library staff and volunteers were made. Library staff received “thumbs up” for feedback. That tour was the first in a continuation of monthly programs that have grown into fun and exciting opportunities for learning. Each library program relies on feedback received from adults with developmental disabilities, and have since expanded to opportunities for new community relationships with special speakers, musicians, educators, performers, and donors.

Progress

As a result of the Wednesday Club—participants are no longer bored or uninterested when making routine library visits. Club members are up and out of their seats and can be found using computers and catalogs; browsing books, magazines, CDs and DVDs; asking questions at the information desk; and giving library staff “high fives.” Because members feel welcome in the library they continue to learn, grow and actively participate in everything the library offers. The participants, parents or caregivers, as well as ARC Inroads staff all report that the Wednesday Club has improved lives in many ways. In 2008 the Antioch Library received the ASCLA/KLAS/NOD Award and the $1000 award was used to purchase gaming equipment, which expands opportunities for health, fitness and technology. In February 2010 Kathy Middleton, a Eureka! 2009 fellow received a $5000 LSTA grant for the development and dissemination of a toolkit for library staff to plan and implement library programs for adults with developmental disabilities. The toolkit consisting of online video and downloadable materials will be accessible for any library staff visiting the site. Program launch date: Summer 2010.