Library Piloting Extra Hours For Patrons With Special Needs

Visiting the library is getting a little easier for individuals with special needs. This month, the Hampton Park Library will launch a Special Needs Library Hour pilot program to provide additional services to patrons with special needs, such as autism or sensory processing disorders.
The first Special Needs Library Hour event will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 14 and is open to individuals and children with special needs, along with their families or caregivers. The program will continue to be offered on the second Saturday of each month through May, when library staff will review attendance and patron feedback collected during the program.
“The buzz and excitement of a public place can be too overwhelming for patrons with special needs,” says Kayla Lawson, a Youth Specialist at the Hampton Park Library who first proposed the program. “This program will provide a quiet, low-sensory hour of freedom within the library. And while they’re here, patrons have the option to enjoy Sensory Storytime,” Lawson added.
The Hampton Park Library, already nestled into a quiet locale in the northern part of Forsyth County, will open its doors one hour earlier than usual to give patrons with special needs access to the library. Patrons can expect softer lighting, limited background noise, and fewer people in the library.
“Our staff will be on-hand to assist patrons in finding the materials they want, or simply guide them in exploring all our library has to offer,” explains Ross Gericke, Branch Manager. “Because this is a pilot program, we’ll also be listening for feedback from our patrons about their needs and the ways we can make adjustments during Special Needs Library Hour to help them better use the library.”
“Programs like this are becoming more common in libraries across the country,” says Program Manager Laura Bradley.
Such early or extended hours for individuals with special needs are also becoming easier to find in retail and recreation as companies like Chuck E. Cheese’s partner with national organizations like the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) to help children with special needs experience activities that typically-developing children enjoy.
“Reading is for everyone, regardless of age or ability,” says Bradley. “January is Braille Literacy Month and we want Forsyth residents to know that their library can also help children and adults with vison impairments find materials to read. Our staff can help low-vison patrons find audiobooks in our collection, offer assistive devices like text-to-speech readers and digital magnifiers for use in the library, or help patrons sign up for GLASS and receive free audio equipment and materials.”
GLASS, Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services, provides braille texts and recorded books and magazines to patrons who are unable to read standard print due to visual impairment or blindness. The service is free, but patrons must submit an application. FCPL staff members can aid patrons with the application process.
Advance registration for Special Needs Library Hour is not required. Patrons should call the Hampton Park Library at 770-781-9840 ext. 6709 with any questions or specific accessibility requests.
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