Getting connected

Peter Williams
Summary 
The Pierre Gorman Award helps libraries develop better services for people with a disability. The award honours the work of the late Dr Pierre Gorman. Gorman worked to improve education for people with disabilities. This year’s award went to the Campaspe Regional Library. The library received the award for its Being-Connected Libraries and Autism project. The library developed the project with local community support groups. Together they will put in place measures that make Campaspe’s libraries friendlier to people with disabilities.
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Peter Williams on 06/06/2014
Campaspe representatives at the awards ceremony.
pierre gorman presentation 2014

Accepting the Pierre Gorman Award.

The Pierre Gorman Award supports improved library services for people with a disability. Presented every second year it acknowledges Victorian libraries that make their facilities friendlier to people with different needs.

The Library Board of Victoria provides a $15,000 grant to recipients of the award while the Pierre Gorman Foundation contributes $10,000.  The funds are used to train staff, develop programs and purchase equipment so people with a disability can access the library services they need.

Pierre Gorman

The award is named in honour of the late Dr Pierre Gorman. He was a pioneering academic who specialised in education for people with a disability. Born in Australia in 1924 with a hearing loss Gorman learned to lip read and speak both English and French with coaching from special language teachers. At the age of six he began his schooling at the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School.

Gorman later studied agricultural science and education at Melbourne University then continued his education overseas. In 1960 he became the first person with a hearing loss to complete a PhD at Cambridge University. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1983 in recognition for his work on disability education.

Being Connected- Libraries and Autism Project

The Campaspe Regional Library won the Pierre Gorman award this year. The library operates 11 branches throughout north central Victoria. Jenny Mustey the Campaspe Regional Library Services Manager accepted the accolade. Mustey said, The award will allow the library…to expand and improve its facilities and programs for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

The library will use funds from the award for its Being Connected – Libraries and Autism project. Local support group, Community Living and Respite Services (CLRS) helped the library develop the project. Established in 1979 the CLRS assists people with a disability in the Campaspe region and provides respite services for careers.

The CLRS have been extremely enthusiastic and supportive and will provide training and staff development for the program, Mustey said. We developed the project in a collaborative fashion and ideas came from both organisations about what could be achieved.

An important measure of the project is a sensory audit of library facilities. People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may experience sensory overload in unfamiliar environments. Mustey said an audit is needed to provide recommendations on how we can improve our libraries for people with ASD and minimise the effect of sensory overload.

The project will also develop inclusive programs that encourage people with ASD to take part in events such as book clubs, summer holiday programs and digital literacy training. Resources from the award will also be used to purchase a mobile internet station so people of all abilities can access the internet.

Communication Access Symbol

Securing the Communication Access Symbol is another goal of the project. The symbol was designed by a team of Victorians. Organisations can display it to show they are friendly to people who struggle to communicate through speech.

The library is working to attain the symbol through improvements to non-verbal communication methods such as print, audio and signage at its branches.

The Pierre Gorman Award helps people with a disability gain access to information services at Victorian libraries. But more than that, it allows libraries to demonstrate what can be achieved through innovative programs that cater for people with different needs.