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DC Public Library Division Head Honored

By Anthony L. Harvey

Accompanying images can be viewed in the current issue PDF

In a full page, public service announcement on January 5, 2012, The Carnegie Corporation of New York and The New York Times announced the 10 winners of the 2011 “I Love My Librarian” Award. Supported by the American Library Association and “@ your library®” — the Campaign for America’s Libraries — the award honors librarians from throughout the country “who have demonstrated outstanding public service and who make a difference in their communities.” These 10 winners were selected from over 1,700 nominations by library users nationwide.

Listed in alphabetical order, the first winner was Venetia V. Demson, who heads the DC Public Library’s Adaptive Services Division.

The text of Ms. Demson’s nomination, from an anonymous (to the public, that is) library user, characterizes her as “a dedicated librarian and disability advocate who has built an innovative adaptive services program at the DC Public Library — one that serves as an international model.”

Descriptions of her innovative programs and community partnerships follow, as well as encomiums from professionals in the field and staff and officials from partnership organizations. These include the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, the American University’s progam for learning disabilities, the DC Council of the Blind, Metropolitan Washington Ear, the DC Rehabilitation Services Administration, and the DC Public Schools system. Especially eloquent are testimonials from library users and from parents of library users.

The concluding section of the formal nomination poses the question, “How does the nominee make the library a better place?” The answer given for this nomination is illuminating:

“Venetia is the Regional Librarian for the DC Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.  She oversaw the distribution of the new digital Talking Book players and the rapid expansion of the BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) service. She worked with architects to redesign The Adaptive Services Division, physically restructuring the space to support her vision.This increased the number of adaptive workstations from 3 to 12, added a learning lab space with an FM loop amplification system for the hearing impaired, created a Braille literacy corner, and installed an updated audiobook recording booth with digital recording capability. Over her time at the library, Venetia brought video phones, captioned telephones and handheld amplifiers into the library.”

Upon receiving notification of the award, DCPL’s Director of Library Services Nancy Davenport proudly noted, “Venetia’s work ensures that people with disabilities have the access they need to read, learn, and use the library — and to use the technology — independently. The training and app development programs that Venetia and her staff have created are cutting edge.”