By: Steven P Wilson, MLIS, AHIP, MA, Web Architect and Outreach Librarian, School of Medicine Library at University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, firstname.lastname@example.org
As Coordinator of the USC Center for Disability Resources Library, I feel proud to share the many small but significant successes that we have achieved over the past decade. The collection, which is comprised of nearly 5,300 books, videos, DVDs, and brochures focusing on disabilities in general, and especially developmental disabilities, is now being borrowed by families of those with special needs and the professionals that work with them, nationwide.
When I began working as the coordinator for the collection, we lent our items out to just South Carolina residents, mailing the books and videos to the patrons’ homes and offices with postage-paid mailers included, so that even those in far off parts of the state would be able to take advantage of the collection, and without having to make the drive to Columbia. This service, which is completely free and largely paid for by grant monies and collaborative efforts by such organizations as the Center for Disability Resources, BabyNet/First Steps to School Readiness, the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, and the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Library, has now lent out thousands of titles and responded to tens of thousands of information requests, to residents of South Carolina, many of whom lack adequate access to up-to-date disability and consumer health resources via their local public libraries plagued by insufficient budgets. Of course the same can often be said of similar patrons from other states who gradually began finding our web presence online and appealing to us to grant them access, as well. With approval from the CDR’s director, about seven years ago we began lending items out to those individuals as well, and I am especially proud of the fact that anyone in any of the fifty states may now take advantage of both our collection and our reference services, whether focused on developmental disabilities or consumer health topics.
Every month, in addition to the approximately 150 South Carolinians that directly benefit from our library, dozens of others outside of South Carolina do as well. For me this represents a wonderful break from the mold of primarily focusing on a single population’s needs, or of narrowly defining our library’s worth relative to just geographical location and regional influence. To be able to lend the collection to anyone, at any time–especially to able to let those selfsame folks know that they can even use us for their consumer health and disability resource needs from extremely up-to-date online resources that they might not be familiar with or have access to, such as MedlinePlus or the many excellent e-resources the USC School of Medicine subscribes to–is such an honor. It makes me really appreciate the “form” of librarianship, and the ideals that we as library students were taught to uphold back in school, learning about service, about finding ways to increase access to quality information for patrons, and to evaluating and championing the best in information in order to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, for the users that come to us looking for such.
I keep a bulletin board on my wall, chocked full of cards and letters from my patrons, thanking us for providing a much needed information service that they wouldn’t have access to in their own regions. And I am thrilled to see an ever-growing number of post cards and letters and Thank You cards coming from outside my own state of South Carolina. This one small collection represents for me what librarianship is all about. Every new item I affix to my bulletin board with a pushpin feels like a small but significant success, each and every time.