The Chair of our Inclusion Advisory Committee has a passion for making the Library more accessible.
Can you tell us how you used the Library for your PhD in History?
I enjoyed the quiet spaces of the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room, as well as the grand Mitchell Library Reading Room, when I was working on my PhD on the history of deaf education in NSW since World War II. In the Special Collections area, I read transcripts from Australian Hearing’s oral history project on the first 50 years of service to hearing impaired clients (1947–97). Another invaluable resource was the Australian Teacher of the Deaf journal, issued since 1956!
Is there anything in the Library’s collection that intrigues you?
When I was studying for my MA in Public History, I found the Sands Directories quite intriguing. They contain household and business information from the city and the suburbs since 1859. One directory helped me discover the history of the Covent Garden Hotel in Chinatown, including its name changes since the 1870s.
As a regular user of the Library, what do you notice from an access and inclusion perspective?
Being profoundly deaf, it’s great when people are aware that I lipread and speak while wearing hearing aids. It helps when the space is well lit and people make eye contact and articulate clearly. For historical research, I can’t wait to use the transcriptions of oral histories provided through the Library’s Amplify website. Great access for me!
What inspired you to join the Library’s Inclusion Advisory Committee?
I love libraries. Through the committee, I want to share my passion for the State Library while providing advice to ensure its accessibility to people with disability. The Library’s resources, exhibitions and infrastructure need to be accessible — it already has captioned footage at exhibitions, hearing loops, wayfinding signage, adaptive technology, talking books, large print books, ebooks and height adjustable tables.
What are your hopes for the Library, as the Chair of the committee?
I would love to see audio descriptions at exhibitions for people who are blind or with low vision. And more Auslan interpreting and captioning at public events and talks at the Library for people who are Deaf or with hearing loss. I look forward to seeing new accessible infrastructure for the Mitchell Building completed within two years and ensuring that the Library’s website conforms to Web Content Accessible Guidelines 2.0. I’m also keen to see a fully implemented Disability Awareness Program to help the Library become a more inclusive organisation.
Why do you think libraries are important?
Libraries are vitally important as community cultural oases: they enable independent and critical thought through reading and learning — via books, newspapers, journals, eresources, collections, exhibitions and public talks. I have fond memories of visiting my local libraries in Ryde as a child — it sparked my love of reading!
Questions by Michael Carney, Coordinator, Projects & Policy
This article first appeared in SL magazine Winter 2018.