• Define equitable access as it applies to the library setting.
• Identify issues in access and collection development.
• Discuss barriers to access and how they can be addressed.
• Describe the ADA and it’s impact on library resources and services.
• Discuss special considerations in access for youth.
• Discuss the role of the library in providing services for all users.
• Discuss access and the ALA code of ethics.
Access is at the core of all library services.
Library users need both physical and virtual access to library resources.
Some barriers can be eliminated through changes in the physical structure of a building. For instance, ramps can provide access for wheelchairs.
In other instances, access is less visible. For instance, those without computers aren’t able to use the increasing numbers of online library resources. Public access computers can help bridge the digital divide.
Equitable Access and Collection Development
All library users should have equitable access to resources and services.
This includes useful resources, physical access, and virtual access to the library.
The library must provide access to a wide range of materials.
A librarian must be self-aware and understand that their religious beliefs, political views, and personal thoughts can easily impact their selection decisions.
Librarians must be careful that their personal preferences don’t interfere with their collection development activities.
Barriers to Equitable Access
Barriers to information access can occur because users lack communication skills, reading literacy, or computer skills. Library users may also experience language barriers if English is their second language.
Libraries must be prepared to bridge these gaps through quality resources and educational programs.
Those libraries in low economic areas may provide public access computers for patron use.
In addition, some library users face cognitive or physical challenges. It’s important that the library is able to accommodate the needs of all users.
Some library users face cognitive or physical challenges. It’s important that the library is able to accommodate the needs of all users.
Those with cognitive challenges may need specialized resources or services. For instance, a program might help those with learning disabilities complete job applications or create resumes.
Delivery services, specialized equipment, and interlibrary loan services might be provided for those with physical disabilities.
Services to People with Disabilities
Some access issues are related directly with federal laws.
For instance, libraries must address the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ADA has implications for both the physical building as well as resources and services.
Read Services to People with Disabilities from ALA.
Services for Youth
Access includes the informational needs of youth. However special consideration must be taken when addressing the informational rights of minors.
There are differences between school and public libraries in terms of their commitment to children and young adults. School libraries operate without direct parental guidance and stress learning over leisure activities. Academic libraries must deal with the transition into adulthood.
Read Access to Libraries for Minors from ALA.
Read Minors and Internet Interactivity from ALA.
Read Access for Children and Young Adults to Nonprint Materials from ALA.
Services for All Library Users
The Library Bill of Rights stresses the importance of access for all library users regardless of origin, age, background, or views.
Access should also be provided regardless of sex, gender identify, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
Access and the ALA Code of Ethics
Providing access isn’t just a nice thing to do for library users. It’s a responsibility of libraries and part of the ALA Code of Ethics.
The ALA Code of Ethics states
“We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.”
Access includes both physical and virtual resources.
Read Access to Digital Information, Services and Networks from ALA .
Individuals may face barriers to access for economic, cognitive, physical, and other reasons. It’s the responsibility of the library to provide equitable access to resources and services to all library users.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) impacts library resources and services.
Special considerations must be taken when providing access to youth.
The library has an important role in providing access to information for all users.