Thursday, December 11, 2008

Was this Library Insensitive to Deaf Needs?

Update 3/2014: Some links that were available when this blog post was first published are no longer valid and have been removed. 

Karen of Deaf Mom Shares Her World was denied access to a close captioned video yesterday at the Naperville Public Library.
You can read the full story here.

The problem for Karen was that her daughter needed to watch a performance of A Christmas Carol for a school assignment. The rest of her class was going to a theatre to see the play live. Unfortunately the theatre was unable to provide an interpreter so Karen's daughter received permission to stay home and view a close captioned video recording of the story. Karen went over to the library where she regularly checks out nonfiction videos to get a copy of the Christmas classic.

And the library had one in their collection. And it was available. But not for Karen.

All because it was classified as a Fiction Video.

You see the problem for the librarian who helped her locate the video was that Karen wasn't entitled to the video according to library policy because her taxes are paid to another library. Here is the reciprocal borrowing policy as stated on their website:

Update 3/2014: This policy was in effect at time of posting by Speak Up Librarian. For current policy, please check with the Naperville Public Library.

A Reciprocal Borrower is one who uses a library card from a reciprocating library to check out materials at Naperville Public Library. As a REGISTERED reciprocal borrower you may check out most materials and use the online Library catalog. REGISTERED reciprocal borrowers will have the same rights and responsibilities as Naperville card holders with these few exceptions (Your home library may provide these services.):

Cannot borrow Adult fiction videos and DVD's
Cannot borrow Adult audio books
Cannot place Holds.
Cannot use Interlibrary loan Services.
No access to Online Databases remotely; you can use them in-house.
Cannot reserve computers in computer labs.

For full service at Naperville Public Library, a card may be purchased for an annual fee, giving the borrower full access to all services.

A Reciprocal borrower who has paid an annual fee of $100 is entitled to unlimited checkouts of:

Adult fiction videos and DVD's
Adult and children's talking books.

Update 3/2014: This policy was in effect at time of posting by Speak Up Librarian. For current policy, please check with the American Library Association.

Interestingly enough the American Library Association has this quote about their Library Services for People with Disabilities Policy approved in 2001. "Libraries play a catalytic role in the lives of people with disabilities by facilitating their full participation in society. This new policy will help libraries improve services for people with disabilities in their communities."

This policy specifically mentions the deaf and hard of hearing. You can read a copy of the policy here.
On page 7 of the policy under a section entitled "Open dialogue with participants" the question is posted Are there instances where the library should make special accommodations for users? [emphasis mine]

So you may be thinking why didn't Karen just go to her home library for the video. They didn't have it. The librarian found that out for her with a phone call.

Obviously in my opinion, knowing that Karen's library didn't have the video and that it was needed for school, the librarian should have made an exception to the policy to accomodate Karen's daughter's need for closed captioning. At the very least, the librarian should have offered to let Karen's daughter view the video at the library at a mutually convenient time.

What happened instead? Karen was given two choices: Fork over $100 to receive full access or Call a friend who lives in Naperville to come out in the cold and check it out for you. Which would you have chosen? Neither option was acceptable to Karen.

In this situation, a librarian chose to follow the RULES and missed her chance to be sensitive to the needs of her community. I'm saddened by it. But I hope that writing about it on my blog will help raise awareness of how well intentioned rules can be used to deny access.

January 16, 2009: In the comment section, Kay posted the link to DCMP the Described and Captioned Media Project This free service is a federal project that provides described videos for the blind and captioned videos to the deaf. Note: to qualify for the service you need to be a K-12 student who is blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind. Teachers of these students also qualify. Thank you, Kay!

January 6, 2009: In the comments section, you will find a reply from Julie Rothenfluh, the Deputy Director of the Naperville Public Library. She states that Karen was offered more choices than the two I mentioned here (which I got from Karen's original post.)

Blogger Bill Cresswell has suggested this resource for subtitled DVDs: Thanks, Bill!

Another blogger has posted on this situation. Scrooged by Library Rules


Anonymous said...

This isn't an access issue. I agree, it's annoying and silly, but please.

Any DVD of A Christmas Carol would have closed captioning, go buy it or rent it. It's not the Library's problem. Of course they're not going to bend the rules for her, because then what about the people who paid $100 for the privilige?

SpeakUp Librarian said...

I disagree that any DVD of A Christmas Carol would have closed captioning. I have rented DVDs of current movies that have not had captioning.
The people who pay $100 expect to check out multiple DVDs over a year's time, while Karen was only trying to get this one particular DVD one time.

Anonymous said...

It most certainly is an access issue. Many movies on DVD do not have CC, as well as many specials from very recent times, such as Jeff Dunham's Christmas Special, Larry the Cable Guy, etc., etc.

Those are examples from recent searches I have done. Please be more informed before making gratuitous assumptions. In this case, it being a school assignment, I agree completely that she should at the very minimum have been allowed to watch it at a mutually agreeable time.

Yes, it is silly and annoying, I will agree with you on that. But you missed the mark with your post (12/11/08 at 8:29 pm poster)

SpeakUp Librarian, I always enjoy reading your blog.

(Eddie Runyon)

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thank you for chiming in, ThumpaFlash.

As I mentioned in my post, libraries are being encouraged by their national organization to reach out to those with disabilities. I thought it was wonderful that Karen thought of a public library as a solution to her daughter's dilemma. Unfortunately this time that particular library missed an opportunity to provide outstanding service (which often includes making exceptions to general rules). Karen could have been bragging online yesterday about the great service she received. That's a blog post we'd all like to see.

Karen said...

Thanks for tackling this issue. I was not aware of the library's policy and that's unfortunate, because maybe I could have pointed that out during the discussion with a different outcome.

Anonymous, sure, I could go out and rent it, that's one solution. Considering that this was a school related issue and not a "for pleasure" viewing, I do think that considering the lack of a CC video at my own library, the Naperville library could have taken the issue into consideration and provided the access. If the Plainfield library had the CC version, I would have been in my car and heading over there and there would be no issue.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Karen, thanks for sharing your experience with all of us!

I also want to say that because it was a school assignment you were under a time deadline. With no time pressure, other options become viable.

Perhaps with more time, your own library could have borrowed it for you. Regardless, public library staff are used to dealing with patrons with deadlines. The library had the resource you needed, you had borrowed materials from the library before, and yet an accomodation was not made.

This is worth "speaking up" about. I know other hard of hearing librarians read my blog and I hope some of them will write in with their thoughts on your situation.

Anonymous said...

What about the teacher who is giving out an assignment and not accommodating the student?? The teacher should be able to find a CC copy for the student or find a substitute assignment.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Anonymous,

Yes, you are absolutely right. If a captioned DVD is unavailable going back to the teacher would be one way to address it.

Karen's blog post explains that the teacher had other ways of accomodating which were not agreeable to her daughter. One was reading a printed script while at the play. I have to say I don't like that one either. The idea of the captioned DVD came from Karen's daughter.

Hope that clears it up. Thanks for your comment.

Mom on the Run said...

I know there is a library of books recorded on tape for people with vision deficiencie. So, is there a resource for close captioned videos/DVDs in the U.S.??

SpeakUp Librarian said...

That's an excellent question, Mom on the Run. There isn't one that I know of. If anyone else knows of one, please comment and share with us.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi everyone,
Here's an update on Mom on the Run's question about a resource for subtitled DVDs. I contacted Bill Cresswell who captions movie trailers and posts them to his blog. He suggested the DVD Subtitles Database. Thanks for your help, Bill.

Julie Rothenfluh said...

I’d like to address some of the concerns expressed about Karen’s experience at Naperville Public Library. Staff at NPL takes pride in making every effort to serve any user who walks through our doors, whatever their purpose – education, recreation, casual interest. We at NPL are always concerned with good public service and staff is empowered to make exceptions to the rules. We do have to operate within the policies that have been approved by our Board of Trustees. NPL is not alone in restricting certain materials and services to those who pay the taxes that make them possible. When our efforts to serve come up against our policies, we try to offer alternatives. On this occasion, staff worked with Karen for about half an hour to try to find a solution. We discovered that her home library does own the video she was looking for but it was checked out. We found out that the Des Plaines Valley Public Library District's Crest Hill Branch had the video in question and offered to call them and have them send it to Plainfield for Karen to pick up; she declined that offer (although she states in one of her posts “If the Plainfield library had the CC version, I would have been in my car and heading over there”). Staff offered several options to Karen that she declined; none of them may have been the optimal solution for Karen, but all were offered in a sincere effort to find a way to serve Karen and her daughter. I think it’s worth noting that Karen continues to use the Naperville Public Library and has never expressed any dissatisfaction with the service she has received to staff or administration. I’d be very happy to have a conversation with her about her concerns at any time.

Julie Rothenfluh
Deputy Director
Naperville Public Library

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Dear Ms. Rothenfluh,
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post and respond. I will amend my original blog post to note that more options were suggested to Karen than I was aware of from her post.
The point of my blog post was that I felt Naperville Public Library missed a unique opportunity to provide service to someone in the deaf community. Service that the ALA itself has promoted in their Library Services for People with Disabilities Policy approved in 2001. For a regular patron such as Karen, an exception could have been made in the spirit of accomodation. Whether Karen chooses to follow up with you on the matter or not is her business. I just wanted to note what happened at your library as my blog is written from the point of view of a hearing impaired librarian who cares about these issues and wants to raise awareness about the deaf/hard ofhearing experience.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

P.S. to Ms. Rothenfluh,
Would it have been possible for Karen and her daughter to have watched the video on the library premises as I suggested? Just curious as I don't know your facility and what AV equipment you have for patrons to use at the library.

Kay said...

DCMP (Described and Captioned Media Project) < > provides captioned videos for the deaf and described videos for the blind. This is a federal project. It was original called Captioned Films for the Deaf. Both parents and teachers can check out videos. They also now have streaming video you can watch online for some of their videos. The only version of The Christmas Carol that they have is from 1935, but this service is always an option for parents. It is completely free.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Kay,
Thank you so much for your comment. That's very good to know.
I'm going to edit my blog post to direct readers to your comment.

truthbetold said...

I go to NPL too and I'm not at all suprised by this. I have had similar experience in terms of customer service there. I'm also a recroprical borrower even though I live right across theh street. Whatever happened to service with a smile?!! Read my blog "Naperville Public Library: High Ranking, Low Customer Service"

Anonymous said...

Rules are rules...rules are rules. Too bad. Whenever 'rules' take precedence over 'people', it is a shame. We just moved to the area and I am sad we had to leave a wonderful, small-town, people-oriented library for this. I hope this was just a one-time sad 'exception' to a 'rule' of NPL's to put the customer's needs as a top priority!