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Libraries, Much More than Books

3/2/20

A library is much more than a place to read, it represents community and the opportunity to grow. At The Douglas Center, we love our libraries. We love our trips to the Skokie Public Library and our time in our on-site library.

Our on-site library started as an idea and has grown to over 245 books and a space to relax and build upon skills. We are even outgrowing our shelf space and expanding to accommodate all the books we have received. Our collection includes books with reading levels from pre-reader to advanced reader, even a set of encyclopedias. The importance of libraries cannot be understated, they are important for the enrichment of our participants.


Group Book Discussion

A system for sorting our shelves of books

Libraries Promote Community Integration

Libraries are a great opportunity for community integration. Our connection with Skokie Public Library was pivotal in creating our own small space experience. Our participants attend the Skokie Library’s “Let's Get Together Book Club” and enjoy being part of a group. They are matched with other community day service members and local schools to meet, read and discuss books.

Libraries Create a Sense of Place

In the development of our on-site library, we emulated a big library on a small scale. We wanted the participants to have a part in the care and ownership of the space. Much like the large public library, we have a cataloging system that allows the participants to take an active role in maintaining the community space, re-shelving books and leaving the area organized for the next friend to find their way about the books. The books are color-code and shelved according to reading level and genre – fiction, non-fiction, how-to, and reference areas. There is also a “book in progress” section, whereas a bookmark with their name is placed within the book, so shared books are available to be read at their own pace by more than one reader.

Libraries are for Volunteering and Sharing

The Douglas Center is very fortunate to have several volunteers who love reading and sharing their time with our participants each week. The Douglas Center currently has 5 volunteers that are devoted to helping in the library and we are always welcoming more. Whether they are practicing reading-related skills, helping an individual read on their own or providing assistance by echo reading – where the reader says a word and the non-reader repeats it – our volunteers engage the participants and help them feel comfortable. This 1:1 time with a volunteer often helps with anxiety, it gives the participant a space to learn without their peers, make mistakes without embarrassment, so the participants can focus on their individual goals.


Focusing on skills

Volunteers help 1:1

Libraries Help Boost Confidence

The individual help of volunteers builds confidence for everyday interactions. Participants look forward to coming into The Douglas Center library. Seeing their progress, from being able to read a chapter at one sitting with a volunteer then soon, they are reading 2-3 chapters in that same amount of time. It is an amazing effect on their confidence level. We have also started developing "peer reading coaches.” Some of our participants that able to read well help their peers, by reading to them or assisting with echo reading or helping each other sound out words and phrases. This interaction provides a great boost for personal skills, ability, and purpose for those who are the peer coach. No matter the ability, we work towards confidence and progress.

Libraries Contribute to Personal Growth

Progress is one of the main indicators of success. Our library provides a space for those who want to improve and practice reading, to those who can't read at all. Improving reading skills helps build confidence which then translates to real-life opportunities like applying or interviewing for a job in the community. Some individuals who cannot read or have limited vision can still experience a story through volunteer, staff and peer interaction. Everyone that chooses to, participates in discussion with their peers or as part of book club. The main goal is to contribute to their individual learning and growth.

While the image of a library is that of words, pages, and book-lined shelves, the power of the library is found in the interpersonal experience, pride, and accomplishment of those who share the quiet space. Libraries promote much more than reading. The ideals of libraries and books promote community, caring, sharing, reflection and growth.


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