Colloquia 2019-2020 | People with Disabilities & Public Libraries

This colloquium will have ASL (American Sign Language) interpreting available


People with Disabilities & Public Libraries: Exploring Inclusion Aims through a Framework of Experience, Intention, and Action


A cursory look at library literature suggests that public librarians and library and information studies faculty value the full inclusion of people with disabilities in public libraries. When asked, people with disabilities of all ages will confirm that their experiences in public libraries are valuable to them as they pursue their individual goals. However, with the reality that ableism still has devastating impacts on the lives of people with disabilities, public libraries’ inclusive intentions call for closer examination of the efforts made to ensure that disabled people are included and represented in libraries’ collections, services and programs.

Join Dr. Tess Prendergast, Lecturer in Librarianship at the iSchool, for this colloquium series talk about inclusion of people with disabilities in public libraries. Beginning with a sampling of public library mission statements, she will ask critical questions about how their inclusion aims might be accomplished in public libraries. Turning to her own research about people with disabilities and public libraries, she will highlight some of their experiences that demonstrate a range of both inclusive and non-inclusive practices in public libraries. By pointing out some of the effects of ableism on standard public library practice, and by drawing on her own research participants’ experiences, she will point to some of the ways that public libraries might close some of the gaps found between inclusive intention and inclusive action.



Dr. Tess Prendergast is a lecturer at the School of Information, UBC where she teaches in the areas of librarianship and children’s literature. An alumna of the iSchool (MLIS, ’96), Tess worked for two decades as a public librarian with a specialization in services to children and families. She also has a PhD in literacy education from UBC’s Department of Language and Literacy Education with a focus on early childhood literacy. Her doctoral research explored the inclusion of children with disabilities in early learning opportunities in their homes and communities, with a particular focus on their families’ experiences in public libraries. Tess is active in the Association for Library Services to Children, currently serving on the membership committee. She frequently writes about and presents conference programs on various aspects of children’s librarianship, children’s literature and inclusion issues in public libraries.