BAM (Because Accessibility Matters): Interview with Librarian Jen Giovanetti at Oregon City Library


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Fri, 05/05/2023 - 9:30am to 10:00am
Jen Giovanetti, Librarian, describes the innovative program she has developed with the help of the Developmental Disability community.


John:  Good morning.  This is Disability Justice:  An Everyday Pursuit in Survival.  Your host, John Griffiths.
Hello! In the studio today I have with me.
Would you mind giving your name and title?
Jen: Hi everyone. I am. Jen Giovannetti.
John: And what's your title?
Jen: I am the one of the adult services librarians at the Oregon City Public Library.
John: Shall we describe ourselves?
Jen: That sounds g reat.
John: Alright! Let's see, I have brown hair, grey beard.
I'm wearing glasses. I have dark blue eyes. I'm wearing an orange shirt with suspenders.
My gender, is it/it's and my race is nonhuman.  
Jen: Nice thanks for that description. I have a good idea in my head of what you look like today.
So for me to describe myself. I have right now purple hair, green eyes.
Today I am wearing a black T-shirt with rainbow letters that say libraries are for everyone.
Pronouns are she/her.
John: You facilitate the BAM program at the library in Oregon City.
 What does the Bam program? What does Bam stand for?
 And how did you come up with the name?
Jen: Alright. Thanks for asking so yes, I facilitate a program series here that we do at the library called Bam and Bam Bam stands for Because Accessibility Matters.
Coming up with the name was a whole group team effort. A group of library staff spent time brainstorming ideas, for a good name for the program.
 We knew we wanted something catchy and fun and something that kind of popped and grabbed your attention.
 But we also wanted to make sure that it captured the spirit of the program and what it's all about at its very core.
 We had a whole list of words going that we thought encompassed our intentions for the program, like inclusive, accessible, equitable, adaptive, ability.
 And welcome diversity. We had a whole long list going, and we knew we wanted the name to be memorable, and also let people know what the program was about.
 And we knew we wanted the name to be memorable, and also let people know what the program was about.
 So we thought a clever acronym would be the way to go.
 Librarians love acronyms and then BAM, because accessibility matters, just seem to sum up the groups purpose, while also having a fun, almost kind of graphic, novel kind of punch to it.
 John: So, when did you start BAM? 
 Jen:It was before the pandemic happened. So I would say 2018 is when we started it. Yeah, I always like to say that bam was started by our patrons.
It actually did come to be after we found out there was a patron need that wasn't being met.
John: Oh, really!
Jen: Yeah. Do you wanna hear that story?
Jen: Alright! So it was during summer reading and our summer reading program was in full swing, when one of our patrons and their care provider spoke to the Youth Services librarian about their concern, that the library's adult summer reading program was not accessible enough for adults with intellectual disabilities and because of that they wanted to sign up for the youth program.
 In addition, just being a staff person that's here a lot, I personally had noticed that we have a lot of groups of people adults with disabilities that visit the library each week, and we knew that we really wanted to be more intentional about reaching out and serving this part of our library community.
 And then the summer reading conundrum came up, and we thought, all right.
 This has made it really clear that we're not serving this demogragraphic of our population in the way that we want to, and that we should.
So at this point we knew we needed to change things and make our adult programs.
 And in particular some are reading more accessible to all of the adults in our community, and we also knew that the first steps would be to educate ourselves and to connect with the disability community itself to find out how we could better serve this population.
 So I began by taking a continuing education class for library professionals at the University of Wisconsin-madison, and the class was called the Disability Community in the Public Library, and through this class I learned first and foremost, the importance of the phrase, nothing for us without us so the
first, step in starting the BAM program was to involve the disability community by forming an advisory committee and then after forming the committee things just kind of took off from there, and we came up with a lot of fun programs and and other things to do for our adults with

John: But it doesn't seem like your well, every time I into this program it seems like you're kind of the sole person, either in charge or the so person who's doing the program.
Is that true or not true?
Jen: That's partly true. So we have a pretty small staff here.
There's only, I think, 10 full time. People here, and that includes the director and operations manager.
So really, there's only right now it's just me as adult surfaces library, and we are hiring another person in the process of doing that.
 But there's just 2 adult services librarians. So I kind of took the initiative and really wanted to advocate and be connected to the disability community.
 So I took the initiative to take on the facilitator role.
 But I would say that this project is the whole communities.
I think there's a lot of people involved and though I may kind of run the programs and be the point person at the library, I couldn't do any of this without the input involvement support participation of the disability community, and as far as the involvement.
 of library staff goes. It is pretty much just me planning and facilitating the program.
 However, I do have a lot of support and involvement from the entire library team, which is really key to making it all work and having the time and resources to do this.
 But it is definitely a project that I rely on the support of others in the community to really do it right.
 So many of the providers and adults in the disability community have contributed to the success of this program in really amazing ways.
And you, John, are one of those people, and Dena, as well.
Yes, so I don't do it alone.

John: Has there been any past projects that you would like to tell us about as well?
Jen: Yeah, So it started out before Covid happened, and we were doing starting the program in the library.
 First, we modified our summer reading to make it more acceptable to adults with disabilities, and then we started with an art program that we knew a lot of that community had a real interest in.
So we did an art lab, and then through the Advisory group and brainstorming with folks in the Advisory group, we had some requests for different programs.
 So then, that we created the Lego Lab program. And then, when Covid happened and the library had to close for a while, we started doing monthly creative kits that you could reserve online and then come and pick up even though the library was closed, we had an outdoor pickup so you could come and pick up
your, creative kit. And then I did a zoom pro program called Make it bam, make it, and we would make the kits together online that's what we did.
While we were closed, and then, when we opened back up, we continued to do the monthly bam kits, so I still do. Those creative kits.
And you can reserve them online. We still do our Lego lab, which is super popular.
We now have added a monthly movie matinee, monthly trivia, which we also were doing during closure for Covid.
We have a movability program now, and an academy program, which is a program for continuing education for the community and is one that is really created and and kind of done by the community itself.
We come up with topics that we'd like to learn about, and then either someone from the from the disability community that has a special interest or skill in an area will present, or we, you know, can invite guest presenters that sort of thing.
So that's Bam Academy. We also have a Facebook page, and I bam. Now, we have a bam book collection and a library of things collection.
John: So could you describe to us this description of the things in the library? 
Jen:So our library of things collection is a coection of things that are not books or Dvds, not your usual library materials.
 So you can check out puzzles and games and cooking equipment and gardening equipment, and musical instruments, and tons of really cool stuff.
 And so that collection is available for everyone. But we had also gotten some requests for some special things like puzzles that are made for people who have dementia or fidget boxes, or boxes, or one of them was made for people who have dementia
 or one of them was a sensory, weighted, blanket as well, so items like a sensory weighted blanket as well.
 So items like that we were hearing requests from our disability community.
 For so we created part of our library of things, is now a bam library of things, with items that are really purchased with the disability community in mind.
When Covid happened, there was a Federal.
 There were a few Federal grants that came up to help libraries kind of get through the pandemic and provide services that they may have been having trouble with providing during Covid and or new things that they wanted to provide their patrons coming back into the library, and
so we applied for a grant, and we were awarded the grant, and we, while I in particular, created a Bam book collection, which is a book collection which is a book collection of fiction, non-fiction which is a book collection of fiction nonfiction graphic
 novels that are published and written in a more accessible format than regular print.
 Maybe sometimes these books are called High low high Interest, lower reading, level and they're just they're for a lot of different people.
 They might be for people who struggle with reading, need bigger font or less text on a page.
 Maybe pictures accompanying the text, folks that are learning English as a second language also benefit from this collection.
 So it's a collection that a lot of our community can use.
But was really inspired by our disability community here.
John:Thank you. 
Jen: Yeah. And then also for all of our adult library programs, they're always open to our disability community.
 We really strive to make all of our programs accessible.
 And we're always happy to provide accommodations for any of our programs or events. 
John:  And what are some of your future projects? 
Jen: I'm right now working on creating a seed library for our library, and it's a project that I would love to have more of our Bam group involved with.
 So that's my my biggest program on the horizon right now that I would like to involve the BAM group with more.
John: I was wondering, Jen, this program sounds really interesting and really geared towards people with disabilities, and I was just wondering if you are the only a library within the Trike County area who is doing this.
Jen: As far as I know. Yes, although I have to say that since this program, since the bam program has been going now for a while, word has gotten out and I have been contacted by a few other libraries with interest to do the same kind of programming so I've done a couple of interviews and chats
 with other librarians who are looking to do the same thing at their library.
 I know Sandy library in Clackammas County was one of those libraries that contacted me, and they have just started a program for some of their patrons.
 There that are in the disability community. But yeah, when I first started looking into beginning this program at Oregon City, I spent a lot of time researching and trying to find other libraries with this type of program just anywhere in the in the Us.
 In particular, and I quickly realized that there really aren't many libraries doing anything like this.
 There are a few that offers some programming for adults with disabilities.
I know San Francisco has a a whole section of their library for the blind community so they do a lot of programs and have a lot of resources that way.
But yet, as far as especially in this area, I think we were kind of the first to begin a program like this.
John: So you could be very useful as a resource to others out there who might be thinking to start.
Jen: I think so. And actually I wrote, and it was published.
 It was through the University of Syracuse, I believe, and it's they were asking for submissions from libraries who are doing things in particular for their disability communities. So they were asking. They called them impact stories. So there's a database of impact stories that have been published by other libraries.
 All in relation to what they're doing for their disability.
 Communities. And it's a way for libraries to share ideas and resources with each other, as we all try to, you know, bring programming like this to the community.
John: So we were kind of curious. What are some of the subjects Bam Academy is working on?
Jen: Oh, we've had some fun ones so far this year.
 We, our first official one this year was our brainstorming session, and then the the next one.
 We actually did a full class. And there were people in the community that expressed a desire to learn about food budgeting.
 And so we made no-bake cookies and did had a discussion about how to budget for shopping for food.
 This coming Bam Academy will be doing a discussion about how to budget for shopping for food. This coming Bam Academy will be doing a class about communication and types of communication.
 So we'll be learning about body language, American sign language and telekinesis, and we have a whole list of other great topics.
We're looking to explore. I know there's some gardening, knitting, creating care packages for the homeless community.
 So, yeah, a lot of fun stuff on the horizon.
John: I must say I'm sorry I missed the no bake cookie one.
Jen: Yeah, that was a bummer. You couldn't be there.
John: I was wondering what are your plans for the future of them?
 I mean, is it a grant? That's supporting you now?
 Is the Oregon City Library going to make this kind of a permanent thing?
 Or is this just a trial period? Or, yeah, what's the future like?
 And do you wanna see this kinda like spread to other libraries within the Tri-county area?
Jen: I would love for other libraries to be doing programming like this.
And this is absolutely a permanent program here at Oregon City Library.
 Yeah, I, this is something that though parts of the program have been supported with grants and the Oregon City women's organization also supports the bam book collectection with ongoing funds, and well, I should correct that I they provided a donation so we can
 use that donation to continue to build the collection. So we do have some support from outside of the community and through grants.
 But really it's the library itself that has decided this is important, and that we need to take part of our budget and make sure that this continues.
 So, yeah, this, the band program will continue with the Oregon City Library.
 I would love for other libraries to be doing the same thing, and would be happy to help with facilitating that in any way I can.
 I'm I did last year at the Oregon Library Association Conference,
 I presented with a Washington County librarian about serving the disability community in the library.
 So yeah, we're getting out there and spreading the word to other libraries.
 And hopefully, this kind of program will will continue to grow in in other libraries around the country and hopefully around the world.
John: Yes, and just so that I mean I am going. I'm hoping that other librarians will be listening to this program, and they will probably want to do the same in their library.
 How might they be able to contact you? Do you have, like an email address phone number, maybe a written number, or I mean a written address, or whatever?
Jen: Yes, yeah. All of those things. I'd be happy to talk to anybody about programming like this.
My email at Oregon City is
 I know that's a lot as far as spelling so, and I guess the best way maybe to reach me could be by phone the phone number here is (503) 657-8269.
 And my extension is 1020, yeah. And then also the address here, 6 0 6 John Adams Street.
And it's in Oregon City, 97045, yeah.
So anyway, someone wants to reach me would be fine. I'd be happy to talk to folks about this program for sure.
John:  By the way, Dena was clapping when you said, it sounds like this is going to be a permanent program within the Oregon library.
Jen: Oh, for sure! Yes, I clap that as well. (Laughter.)
John: So I wonder, yeah, go ahead.
Jen:  Yeah. And then, oh, I was, gonna say, and then I know you asked what some of my hopes for the future for BAM, and it says I, you know, I really hope that it just continues to grow and evolve I'd love to be able to do some more
outreach programming for the community, and, you know, get outside of the library and do things with the disability folks in the community.
 You know, I really continue to... I really want to continue to build relationships and develop more connections in the community.
More partnerships. Yeah. And then bring this type of programming to other libraries and other communities.  
John: So I wanna thank you for being in the for coming on the show and and answering our questions.
 And for you know, just being here and helping us do this.
Jen: Well, thank you so much, John. It's been a real pleasure.

John: That's the end of Disability Justice. Since we cannot be fully aware of everybody's difficulties within the community, we'd really like it if you would send us your email
(Haunting outro music with lyrics "Caught in the Fire")

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