Improving Services for Neurodiverse Children and Teens at Burnaby Public Library.
-by Cristina and Denise
Have you heard the term neurodiverse, neuroatypical or neurodiversity being used more recently? Learn more about what the word means here.
The neurodiverse experts are right here in our communities
For the past two years, the Burnaby Public Library has been going outside the walls of the library to meet the community. It has been an important switch to listen and learn how the library can support all people in the community. This is a change from the library seeing ourselves as “the experts”, and instead, listening to the community where the real experts are.
A very special friend of Denise’s told her that she would never bring her son, Theo* to the library. Theo’s mom sees the library as a quiet traditional space where her son would be “shushed”. She was fearful that people would judge his behaviour. They would not understand he is neuroatypical. She was even more fearful that people would judge her parenting. At the library, with this feedback, we recognized we were not supporting this family in the way we wanted to. We realized that we had to change. We want to help the neurodiverse community feel welcome at our library. So our journey to connect with neurodiversity began.
First steps towards welcoming people who identify with neurodiversity
Our steps to be welcoming to everyone led us to seek out and develop relationships with the neurodiverse community. For instance, we know we need to hear from them directly. We seek to understand what they want and need to make visiting the library a success. As an example, we heard from the community the need to provide sensory tools. These sensory tools support people while visiting the library. So we have purchased sensory equipment. Read more about weighted lap pads as an example.
In partnership with the Autism Society of British Columbia, we are working towards developing a safe space for children to be themselves. Moreover, we want parents to have a chance to build face to face relationships during our Sensory Friendly Library Hour. The first event will take place on March 27, 2020, at the Cameron Library. Click here for our program listings. We are also listed in the Sensory Friendly Finder.
Thanks to our partnership with Autism BC, we have also created a story about what to expect when visiting the Cameron Branch of our Library.
Please join us for our Sensory Friendly Library Hours in the future. We look forward to making your library visit warm and welcoming to everyone in the community, including anyone who identifies as being neuroatypical.
Finally, if you have any questions, please contact us.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
Cristina Freire has been a teen librarian with the Burnaby Public Library for 6 years. Cristina believes we are all on the spectrum and wants to build a world where our differences are appreciated and celebrated.
Denise Kempf has worked with Burnaby Public Library for 33 years. She is passionate about creating inclusive library spaces.