The "Autism Welcome Here: Library Programs, Services and More" grant committee is proud to announce two first-year grant winners. Applications were submitted from 57 libraries in 22 states, proposing a wonderful range of programs and initiatives that would benefit individuals with ASD and their families. Proposals were received from very small libraries in rural areas and from large urban systems. The majority came from public libraries, but academic and special libraries were also represented. The proposed projects ranged from the innovative and adventurous to the tried and true, and all sought to make a meaningful impact on the lives of people with autism in the communities they serve.
The Autism Welcome Here Grant is sponsored by Libraries and Autism: We're Connected (www.librariesandautism.org), and honors the groundbreaking work of Libraries and Autism co-founder Meg Kolaya for her contributions in promoting inclusion, connecting libraries and the autism community, and bringing awareness of the needs of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families to the library community. Each year a total of $5000.00 will be awarded. This year's winners received their awards at the *Targeting Autism Forum, held on March 10, 2016 at the Illinois State Library, where they introduced their projects to other librarians and representatives of organizations serving people with ASD.
"We really didn't know what to expect this first year out", said Dan Weiss, Libraries and Autism co-founder and Autism Welcome Here committee member. "We were gratified and a bit overwhelmed by the response we got and the quality and variety of the proposals made it a very challenging decision."
However, after careful deliberation, two applications rose to the top of the pile. Both proposed an innovative and clearly described program that could be replicated in other libraries and communities. Collaboration with community stakeholders was also a key element of both programs. The two winners are: the Judith J. Carrier Library at the Tarrant County College Southeast Campus in Arlington, TX and the Simsbury (CT) Public Library.
The community college library in Texas will initiate the Autism Spectrum College Information Talks (ASCIT) Project, offering a series of presentations and other resources to help caregivers support students with ASD make a successful transition to postsecondary education. The Simsbury PL program will create a supportive and welcoming environment for young children with ASD and their peers, in the form of an inclusive bimonthly playgroup called Everybody Plays. Their proposal also includes a staff-training component, which will ensure that program facilitators and other library staff will be able to provide exceptional library services to the local ASD community.
Autism Welcome Here creator and committee member Barbara Klipper said, "The incredible response we received demonstrates both the extent of the need and the desire of many librarians to better serve people with ASD in their communities. We wish we could have funded more initiatives, but it is our hope that unsuccessful candidates, and even libraries that didn't apply, will be inspired by the grant to seek out other funding possibilities or to find creative ways to serve this population within existing budgets".
The "Autism Welcome Here: Library Programs, Services and More" committee extends their congratulations to the 2016 grant recipients and to all the libraries that submitted proposals.
Applications for the 2017 grant(s) will be accepted starting on September 1, 2016. More information about the grant can be found at www.librariesandautism.org/grant.
*The Targeting Autism Forum is supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)