In June 2023, The Irish Times asked readers to rate customer care in public services, and libraries received some of the highest scores. Public libraries remain a cornerstone of knowledge, community and inclusivity and as readers praised ‘easy access to a wide range of digital content’ and ‘online training’, it is in the area of Assistive Technology where some of the greatest strides have been made.
An excellent example of this is the TTT Programme designed to support children and adults with learning difficulties, disabilities or more significant needs. The programme provides ‘Toys, Technology and Training’ and gives its members free access to a wide range of Assistive Technology. Some libraries have also expanded their collections to include the TTRS -Touch Type Read and Spell programme – specifically designed for those with learning differences such as Dyslexia and Dyspraxia while others have developed tech led sensory pods and gardens. Recommended for Primary school children with specific learning difficulties, English Type Junior is one of the more widely used touch-typing programmes and is now available in some of our libraries. Easily accessed by parents and professionals, the See and Learn Programme was developed by Down Syndrome Education International to specifically support the learning needs of young children and is also available as part of the TTT programme.
In addition to TTT, The Hublet and ACORN tablet projects have helped to bridge the age gap by providing age friendly, easy to use technology. Navigating the ACORN tablet is very straight-forward while The Hublet project allows readers to borrow a tablet and use it in the library, making eBooks, magazines, videos and self-help apps accessible to those without electronic devices.
C-Pens are also available to borrow at some branch libraries. This popular device scans and reads text, assisting people with learning differences or vision problems.
The Magic Table or Tovertafel is another popular addition. This award-winning innovation from the Netherlands uses specially designed technology to help people with cognitive challenges or in mid-late stage dementia. It consists of a series of colourful and interactive light games which respond to hand and arm movements.
While this list is far from exhaustive, it’s not surprising that one Irish Times reader said that in terms of service Public Libraries ‘must be up there with the best’ and while the area of Assistive Technology is advancing at a pace, one regular library user also remarked that when she visits her local library, ‘they always remember my name’.