Dyslexia? Welcome to our library

Libraries are the best kept secret for people with reading difficulties, but like everyone else they have a right to information. They don’t know what the library can offer. It takes courage to visit the library as a dyslexic, and why visit a library if you cannot read?

This article will provide examples of the implementation of the new IFLA Guidelines for Library Services to Persons with Dyslexia in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The guidelines can be used by professionals in the library world as a source of inspiration on how to recognize library users with dyslexia and other reading difficulties, how to approach them and how to improve library services accordingly.

The main recommendations of the new guidelines are to make a comprehensive plan, work together with stakeholders and, last but not least, make progress by taking one step at the time. The guidelines focus on public libraries; however many of the suggestions and recommendations may be useful for other kinds of libraries as well.

Denmark

Nota, the specialised library for print disabled in Denmark, collaborate with libraries to raise awareness of dyslexia and of library services to people with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. Below are two examples on how to implement the guidelines in the library services.

The Duo concept

Duo is a network for dyslexic students in secondary and higher education. Duo gives students the opportunity to meet others in the same situation and share knowledge and experiences of living reading difficulties. It also enhances the Duo students’ knowledge and use of the library. The project is a successful cross fertilisation between public libraries and Nota. It can hopefully become a permanent practice and thereby position libraries as a starting point for learning network. The project is implemented with support from Kulturstyrelsen, the Danish Agency for Culture.

Shared Reading

Shared Reading is a reading group activity in which everyone can participate. No preparation required small groups and a reading group leader, who reads aloud a short story or an excerpt of a book and a poem and guides the participants’ dialogue, if necessary. There are no wrong or correct answers. The purpose of the Shared Reading is to open the text and experience the literature.

In the autumn Nota will start two reading groups together with Aaby Public Library in Jutland. The reading groups are for young people with dyslexia aged 15-19 years, and hopefully they will help to ensure that young people become wiser on literature, develop their vocabulary and get new perspectives on their own lives and opinions through debates.

Sweden

The Swedish Library Association has decided to translate the guidelines. Afterwards the library consultants in the regional libraries will raise awareness of the guidelines through conferences and in network meetings.

Most public libraries develop library plans including accessibility and how to make webpages and written materials accessible and easy to read. In these plans there should be a section about how to reach people with dyslexia. This will raise awareness among library staff and increase activities around this group of users.

Norway

From April 2013 through October 2013 The Norwegian Library of Talking Books and Braille (NLB) carried out an information campaign targeted at the public libraries in Norway. The object of this campaign was to increase the libraries’ awareness in terms of making literature and information available for all citizens and to contribute to making NLB better known among persons with a print disability.

The campaign consisted of posters, travelling exhibitions and other material. Also the public libraries were encouraged to inform to their patrons and business partners about NLB.

All the counties in Norway and in total 55 percent of all local municipalities as well as 255 public libraries participated in the campaign. The hope is that this campaign has contributed to increase the awareness and knowledge about this target group.

More information on the guidelines

Hopefully the new guidelines and examples from Denmark, Sweden and Norway will inspire library staff around the world to make library services available to persons with dyslexia, and to raise awareness of the importance of doing so. Download the guidelines here: kortlink.dk/ifla/haps

The guidelines also provide a checklist of tips and ideas, an overview of best practises from several public and specialized libraries and a small knowledge base with a list of reliable and objective sources: kortlink.dk/ifla/hapt

Corresponding member of the IFLA section “Library Services to People with Special Needs” (LSN)
Helle Mortensen is corresponding member of the IFLA section Library Services to People with Special Needs (LSN) and one of the authors of the IFLA Guidelines for Library Services to persons with Dyslexia – Revised and extended, 2014. She has long experience from Danish public libraries especially Lyngby Public Library where she has been coordinator for library services to people with special needs.