Jennifer Taggart | Movers & Shakers 2016 – Advocates

It started with fuzzy black-and-white copies of flashcards. Jennifer Taggart’s son was receiving speech and language therapy at school, and this was homework. “While we were thankful for having something to practice with, the librarian in me thought there must be a better way,” says Taggart, now assistant department head of youth services at Bloomfield Township Public Library. Simultaneously, Taggart noticed more families with special needs at the library “attending (or trying to attend) programs.”
Jennifer Taggart

CURRENT POSITION

Assistant Department Head, Youth Services, Bloomfield Township Public Library, MI

DEGREE

MLIS, Wayne State University, Detroit, 1998

HOBBIES

“I am a Pinterest addict (jentag2) and a closet travel planner”

FOLLOW

btpl.org/youth/special-needs

Photo by Donna Ranek Photography

Championing Inclusion

It started with fuzzy black-and-white copies of flashcards. Jennifer Taggart’s son was receiving speech and language therapy at school, and this was homework. “While we were thankful for having something to practice with, the librarian in me thought there must be a better way,” says Taggart, now assistant department head of youth services at Bloomfield Township Public Library. Simultaneously, Taggart noticed more families with special needs at the library “attending (or trying to attend) programs.”

Taggart helped draft a proposal to the library’s Friends, who donated $10,000 to develop a collection for youth with special needs based on input from educators and therapists. Composed of print, mixed-media, audiovisual materials, tactile manipulatives, interactive books, tactile-illustrated Braille books, and Discovery Skills Kits, the collection has grown by 15 percent each year since 2009. [American Sign Language (ASL) materials and reading support kits are coming soon.] Taggart introduced programs such as Sensory Saturday Story Time and Shake Rhythm & Rhyme to complement the collection.

Marian Rafal, head of youth services at Bloomfield, says, “Jen is passionate about making public libraries more inclusive and welcoming.” The collection has been a boon to the district’s special education staff.

To support other Michigan librarians expanding services to people with special needs, in 2010 Taggart developed the statewide Adaptive Umbrella Workshop for librarians, teachers, parents, and others working with children. In 2014, she codeveloped the Special Needs Services Roundtable.

Now she’s working on a social-interaction focused “story time” for older teens and young adults, and the library’s first After-Hours Special Needs Family Fun Night, at which anyone with special needs can explore the library in an anxiety-free environment. Says Rafal, “Her work creating the special needs collection and accompanying programming has taught us about inclusion…and has made…other libraries more welcoming to children with special needs.”

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