It started with a single conversation, as many great ideas do. In October 2021, Kansas librarians came together in-person for the annual Kansas Library Association conference. We were back together after a year of reconfiguring library programming, policies, and access to library materials to fit the needs of our communities during COVID. We were all eager to share our ideas and changes to our library services.
Kansas Talking Books Director, Michael Lang, and Wamego Public Library (WPL) Adult Program Manager, Kelley Nordberg were both in attendance. While talking to each other between sessions, WPL’s StoryWalk® came up in conversation. A StoryWalk® is a book that has been taken apart and presented page by page around a path to promote reading, exercise, and family time.
Kelley floated the idea of Kansas Talking Books providing braille for the StoryWalk® to make it more inclusive. Michael brought me into the conversation, and we talked with Kelley about the clear braille overlay we have that could be used. We were all eager to take the initiative to have a more inclusive and accessible StoryWalk®.
I contacted Kelley shortly after the conference to find out when they wanted to start, what book they were planning on using, and more about how their StoryWalk® is put together. She informed us the braille StoryWalk® would start October 2022 and they were interested in using a book about fall. We were excited to be included in the book selection process, looking for descriptive autumnal children’s books.
I provided WPL with a list of books and they chose Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak. They sent me the text of the book that I needed to braille. We use a braille embosser to emboss the braille on clear adhesive labels called braille overlay.
Our initial thought was that the overlay could be adhered directly to the plexiglass covering the pages of the book. It was fortuitous that a couple of talking books libraries from other states had mentioned their StoryWalk® in newsletters or on our listserv. I reached out to learn more about how they provide braille and was glad I did.
Through a discussion with the Iowa Library for the Blind and Print Disabled, I learned that sticking braille overlay to plexiglass was a disaster in the making. After they provided braille overlay for an Iowa library’s StoryWalk® it ruined the plexiglass and it all had to be replaced. With this information, I made a plan to meet with Kelley and WPL’s Director, Darci Hildebrand, to discuss the issue and to see the StoryWalk® in person.
In July 2022, we met at the StoryWalk® to brainstorm ideas of how the braille could be temporarily attached so it could be changed out each month. Over the next couple of months, WPL continued to work on it and with the help and donations of Tony Coleman from Coleman Electric, a local Wamego business, devised a solution. He came up with the metal L-shaped plates and bracket system to attach to the side of WPL's permanent StoryWalk® posts. White vinyl, donated by Able Printing Company, is attached to the metal plate and the braille adheres to the top layer. The metal plates can be easily removed if needed, and the braille is changed to match the story displayed.
Kansas Talking Books provided the braille and WPL put everything together. I attended and helped with the installation on October 3rd, to see how the process worked. It was thrilling to be a part of, not only was I assisting in making the StoryWalk® inclusive, but we were spreading awareness of braille and its importance as a method of written communication with people who are blind or visually impaired.
WIBW shared news of the braille StoryWalk® that night, spreading the story across northeast Kansas. The school librarian at West Elementary School, Hallie Hatfield, got involved and asked for materials to teach her students about braille. More than 300 students learned about braille to get ready for the addition of braille at the StoryWalk®.
There was such a positive response that WPL requested braille for November 2022’s book. We are pleased that WPL and the community have really taken inclusivity and awareness of the needs of visually impaired individuals to heart.
We look forward to providing braille for the April, May, September, and October WPL StoryWalk® books this year. These are great opportunities to share what braille is and why it is important. Thank you to Wamego Public Library for taking the initiative to add braille to your StoryWalk®.
Wamego Public Library StoryWalk® webpage
WIBW Media Coverage, October 3, 2022: Wamego Public Library’s StoryWalk more inclusive after new addition
The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library.? Storywalk® is a registered service mark owned by Ms. Ferguson.