Putnam Award to Long Beach Public Library

Thanks to its outstanding work on behalf of people with disabilities, the Long Beach Public Library won for the City of Long Beach the prestigious Helen Putnam Award for Excellence from the League of California Cities. The Award declares that, because of its Public Library, the City of Long Beach “has created a unique partnership with several local agencies serving people with disabilities” and that it has “opened doors to a wealth of resources” for those people by creating Long Beach’s Information Center for People with Disabilities.

The road to the award began when Long Beach Public Library participated in the California State Library’s (CSL’s) “Public Library Services for People with Disabilities” program, a two-year, $1.4 million project that helped public libraries improve their services to people with disabilities. Funded by the Library Services and Technology Act, participating libraries worked with their communities during 2002/03 to identify the best ways to do that.

The award-winning result of the California State Library’s training was Long Beach Public Library’s Information Center for People with Disabilities that opened October 21, 2003 during Disabilities Awareness Month. The Friends of the Library built the 420-square-foot Center in the Main Library that includes state-of-the-art computers with adaptive technology, a printer, a scanner, and a variety of assistive devices. The Center also houses a reading area with books for adults and children, videos, and magazines on topics related to disabilities.

The Long Beach Center empowers people with disabilities. In its first year alone, the Center served over 1533 people who, for the first time in their lives, used computers and accessed the Internet, retrieved library materials from shelves, and read books without assistance.

The Center can actually change lives. Bill had thought that education and employment were over for him after an accident fifteen years ago left him paralyzed from the neck down. After using a computer with only his eyes at the Center, though, Bill went on to enroll in Long Beach City College’s distance learning degree program and now plans to become a computer designer.

To further the Center’s mission, Long Beach Library has adapted its policies, such as extending loan periods, to reflect the needs of people with disabilities. Further, the library now identifies services for people with disabilities as one of its “core services” and plans to expand the program to its branches, creating mini-centers in each.

 



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