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‘Accessible hour’ at Clare libraries for those with additional needs

CLARE’S libraries are to introduce a twice weekly ‘accessible hour’ from next month.

The slots on Tuesdays and Thursdays will be from 11.30am to 12.30pm with Helen Walsh, County Librarian, explaining, “These times have been chosen as they are quieter times for library usage.

“During this time children/adults with additional individual needs are encouraged to visit the library to avail of library services.”

Details of the new service were unveiled at the monthly meeting of Clare County Council where Councillor Ian Lynch requested that banded times be allocated in the library for users with additional sensory and communication needs. He said this would be in keeping “with the council’s excellent work providing inclusive services for all”.

As well as outlining details of the new ‘accessible hour’ Ms Walsh added in her reply that parents with children on the autism spectrum and those children who require introductory information on what a visit to the library consists can view social stories on the Clare library website, www.clarelibrary.ie for the individual branch they wish to visit.

“These social stories have been prepared with all in mind not just those on the autism spectrum. This should allay any fear or anxiety of coming into the library space and inform clients of what to expect from a library visit. There may on occasion be other activities happening in branches during these times e.g. a class visit but this should not detract from the use of the library during the ‘accessible hour’.”

“In addition, all full time branches hold small sensory toy collections which can be asked for and used while in the library – due to covid restrictions these collections are temporarily suspended.

“Presently – the library service is applying for grant aid to place a “Cubbie” – a sensory hub for those diagnosed with ASD, DCD, ADHD and anxiety in two libraries (the new Ennis library and Shannon branches).

“These hubs when functioning will provide a safe space for people of all ages with varying disorders and will work to advance the promotion of mental health.”

Councillor Lynch praised the work of the library service. Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council PJ Ryan described the initiative as “positive”.

Councillor Ann Norton commented, “The library service is one of the best services Clare County Council provides”. She added that the council has improved its services for people with disabilities, including the opening of the new accessible changing rooms at Tim Smythe Park. While Councillor Joe Killeen stated that “understanding and awareness is they key to inclusiveness” as he welcomed the initiative.

Councillor Lynch further sought that a review is undertaken of other services provided by the council to see if allocated times can help improve user experience.

Ann Reynolds, Senior Executive Officer, Corporate Services replied, “Each Directorate will review their customer facing services to explore further opportunities to increase accessibility for service users who have additional communication or sensory needs.”

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