Five Ways to Make Your Library More Accessible

This article was originally published in the ALIA Journal – Incite, July/August, 2018.

I am a student librarian and a parent of five children, three of whom have a disability – although their disabilities are not immediately visible. Earlier this year I took my children to the library where my son was loud and active. I did my best to redirect his energy and encouraged him to sit quietly. However, the librarian at the desk – rather than approach me or allow me to supervise my child – stepped in to reprimand my son directly.

To me, this communicated that my parenting wasn’t adequate. To my son, it communicated that the library was not a welcoming space where he is able to be himself. For both of us, it made for an unpleasant experience in the library.

Unlike many other places, libraries are supposed to be accessible spaces. They are meant to be places of safety where people can learn and be themselves. However, all too often this does not hold true for my family. Library staff need to better understand that not all disabilities are visible and not all users can be treated in the same manner. Librarians need to be patient with patrons, especially those that may not fit their ideals.

To ensure that you, as a professional, are able to be welcoming to patrons of all abilities, I recommend the following.

Examine your own bias. Do you have a certain image on what an ideal patron should look like? Do you have assumptions about what disability looks like?  Before you can address your biases you need to acknowledge them.  Then you can educate yourself.

Remember that not all disabilities are visible. Some disabilities are immediately obvious – a wheelchair, a white cane or leg splints are immediately visible.  A lot of disabilities are not visible.

Accept that noise and disruption are part of the job. You may prefer the library to be silent, and so may patrons, but unless a noisy disruption is occurring in a dedicated quiet study area, you should not intervene. 

Do not intervene if the child is being attended to. An unsupervised child in the library is another issue altogether, but if a parent or carer is addressing the child’s behaviour there is no need for you to intervene unless there is a significant risk of imminent danger.  If in doubt, ask the carer if they need assistance. 

Consult with the community. I have toyed with the idea of requesting a regular accessible time-slot at our local library, like the local cinema does.  Personally I have come to the conclusion that the cinema environment needed modification to be inclusive, but the library environment does not.  However, the families in your local community may disagree.  Contact local organisations to see if a dedicated accessible time-slot is desirable.

Provide staff with training. If you are in a position of authority in your organisation, consider providing staff with training.  Knowing what to expect and having confidence to deal with difficult situations may bring about a change in attitude. 

Together we can ensure that the library is seen as a safe and welcoming space for all. A person with a disability, or in fact any person, who is welcomed into the library and made to feel comfortable is more likely to return.

The Story of a Boy and his Lion

This is not a sad tale nor a cautionary one (unlike a book we borrowed from the library recently based on this poem). This story is of my little boy and his favourite soft toy.

Once a upon a time, in a place not so very far from here (in fact, about three blocks from where we live) a little boy was born (actually, he wasn’t really that little at all).  He was given the name Josiah, after the child-king in the Bible.

Josiah was not alone in this world, for he had a brother and two sisters to keep him company.  He was also surrounded by uncles, aunts, grandparents, godparents and many family friends.

Josiah had a Grandpa, who loved him very much (I’m sure no more or no less than any of his other grandparents, but the fact is that Josiah was loved, and the object in question was a gift from his Grandpa). Grandpa gave Josiah a small gift when he was born – a toy lion.  There was nothing particularly special about this lion (in fact I think it was bought on clearance at the local grocery shop) except that it was given with love.


I took this photo on my old (and very outdated, even at the time) phone, so the quality is as good as it gets, I’m afraid.  However, this picture is special because it is the first picture we have of Josiah and his lion.


Josiah grew, and, at first, he didn’t seem to have a preference for this toy or the other, but around his first birthday he was showing a bit of a preference for his lion.  We had a bit of a preference for it, too, as it matched nicely with the quilt his Aunty Rachael had made for him.  It also matched nicely with his middle name, Ryan (which means little king).


His Aunty Rachael (who is exceedingly clever, creative and has always been generous for as long as I’ve known her – and considering she’s my little sister, I can say that’s a fair while) also made him this beautiful birthday cake for his first birthday, to go with that theme.

The cake-topper lion has survived this last year, although only just. This is due to a dreadful mauling incident involving a little girl who shall remain nameless.  Unfortunately for the lion (or fortunately, as you would normally consider mauling incidents between little girls and big cats) the lion was the worse for the incident.
josiah-cake-lion It seems that little girls find sugar-lions just as tasty as real lions would find little girls.  His head now floats above his body and will only face sideways or backwards, not forwards.  His mane is lacking the same thickness and lustre it once did, probably from the stress of losing his tail and hind leg.

However, this is a tale about a BOY and his LION not about a boy and his sister who has a thing for eating lions.

So, Josiah had developed a preference for his lion.  He would take it to bed most nights (although he was content enough to take another toy when his lion could not be found, or take no toy at all if needed).  He liked to carry it around the house.  He would sometimes take it in the car, but we always left it safely in the car so as not to lose it (although he may have made a trip or two to Granny’s house).

The lion had come out of the house with us on a few special occasions though.  Josiah’s lion had come to the hospital with us when Josiah was suddenly hospitalised for two nights.  He also had ventured out on holidays with us (which had also involved a hospital trip).  This lion had become SPECIAL.

Then, disaster struck.  Well, it wasn’t a disaster at first.  It was just that one day we couldn’t find his lion at bedtime.  No biggie, just give him another toy.  But then we couldn’t find him the next night, or the next, or the next.  He didn’t seem to be fretting about it, but we were a little sad and also completely miffed as to where this lion, who rarely left the house (being a bit of a homebody), could possibly be.


We looked in every room, in the soft toy basket, under beds, in drawers… and he was nowhere to be found.  We were feeling a bit sad, but what could we do?  Thankfully Josiah (with his very limited verbal skills… but that’s a post for another day) wasn’t expressing any signs of missing his friend, but we still wanted to find it for him.

Then, one Sunday,  we were having a quiet Resting Day at home together after church.  lion-2The big children and Mark were playing up at the table with Lego and I was playing with the little two on the floor with the duplo.  I pulled the big box of duplo out from the just-above-floor-height cupboard shelf it was on.  A minute or so later, Josiah started pointing and making noise.  The “Uh-uh” I want it type noise.  I looked…  and there was his lion, stuffed in the back of the shelf, behind where the duplo box had been.

I quickly rescued the somewhat squished lion from the back of the cupboard and handed him to Josiah, who hugged him tightly.  I think I was as equally pleased and relieved to have him found.

Nowadays, Josiah likes to sleep with his lion every night, and reaches around in his cot for him if he can’t see it when he first gets in the cot.  He will accept another toy if needed, but he does prefer his lion.  He often wants to bring it when he gets up in the morning, although we have an objection to Josiah sharing his breakfast with his lion (but not lunch, apparently, as you can see in the photo).


His lion has been dunked in the bath and had his feet dipped into a bucket of water.  He has had vegemite smears on his face and been given a liberal coating of yoghurt.  He has been cuddled, bitten, thrown, sat on and used as a pillow.


Josiah’s lion often gets cuddled then laid down on a cushion, after which we are all told to “shh” because it is asleep.  Despite being Josiah’s favourite toy, he is generous with sharing cuddles with others.


Recently, as we browsed an op shop, we spotted another identical lion and figured it was good to have as a back up.  50c changed hands and he was ours.  Josiah knows he has two lions – he’s more than happy to cuddle both – and doesn’t show partiality for one or the other (or maybe he does, since it’s most often his original one that I can’t find because he’s left it somewhere).


So here ends the happy tale of a boy and his lion.


Happy Second Birthday Josiah!  We wish you a hundred or more birthdays ahead, but more importantly that you will grow to love and serve the Lord.

This post was originally written almost eight years ago, for Josiah’s second birthday. I reposted it six and a half years ago, on what would have been my Dad’s 58th birthday (My Dad was Josiah’s Grandpa who bought him this lion and he died nearly seven years ago). I am reposting it now because I love this post and the story and we still have the lion! He’s looking a little worse for wear but Josiah still loves him.


NLS9 Event Wrap Up

NLS9 was held in Adelaide on the 5th-7th of July, with tours held on the 5th and the conference proper on 6th and 7th July.

I’ve thought long and hard about what I wanted to say about this conference, and at the prompting of Sally Turbitt I’ve decided to share my thoughts.

The upshot is, I didn’t enjoy this conference.  There were some factors that were well within the organisers’ control however there was a lot that wasn’t and was simply about me.  From “what could be improved” I found that the breakout space wasn’t really kept for downtime as advertised (it was multipurpose, used for meal breaks, meetings and chill out time) and I also thought that the keynotes had zero promotion about them, and they didn’t even have titles/topics in the programs, so I couldn’t make an educated decision about whether I should go to the keynote or skip it and get some rest.  On a personal note, I was worn out going into the conference, and ended up with a migraine on Sunday morning as a result.  I’m starting to think that conferences just aren’t my jam – there is so much information to absorb in a short space of time, and so many people.  As an introvert and a neurodiverse person (ADHD including sensory processing issues) conferences are really, really hard.

I was disappointed by the keynotes, as some seemed to be a bit too niche interest for me and some rehashed ideas I’d heard before (however, I must also note that not everyone – ie most people at NLS9 – did not have the privilege of attending ALIA Information Online 2019 and hearing the amazing keynotes there).  As I said earlier, I couldn’t make an informed decision about whether or not to attend because there was no information given about them leading up to the event.  I was also disappointed in the one teacher-librarian lightning talk – the speaker has no experience as a teacher librarian and just presented the sort of stuff we write in assignments and blog posts, not anything inspiring.

On the plus side, I really enjoyed Alissa McCulloch‘s talk “We Need To Talk About Cataloguing“.  Absolute highlight of the conference proper.

What I enjoyed about the NLS9 experience was:

  • Exploring Adelaide a little myself and discovering the Central Markets and Chinatown, especially discovering a pirate-costume-wearing didgeridoo player playing along to Shaggy’s Boombastic
  • Hiring an electric scooter and riding to the State Library for the conference dinner.


  • Catching up with friends including Alissa, Sally, and Mel.


  • Being in a new city I’d never been to before.
  • Contributing to the NLS9 zine.
    Screen Shot 2019-08-19 at 3.05.27 pm
    None of that was really about the conference.

    While there were things the organisers could have done to improve the conference experience, please don’t take this post as saying the conference was awful.  It wasn’t. It was pretty groundbreaking for Australia with a strong sustainability focus and the organisers worked really hard.  It’s just I think… maybe conferences aren’t for me.

A History of Education In Australia

Many years ago I researched and wrote an article for Education Choices Magazine called A History of Education in Australia.  If I were to write such an article now, it would be different.  I probably wouldn’t use the term “Australian Aboriginals” and I would now have a better understanding that Aboriginal people are not one homogenous group, but that they were made up of many hundreds of different nations.  But, being written in 2006, it is what it is.  It also wasn’t written for a peer reviewed journal or university assignment so it isn’t referenced in the way I would do it now.

To cite this article (in APA format):

Parnell, L. (2006) A history of education in Australia. Education Choices. (6) (pages unknown).

Unfortunately I can’t find my own hard copy of the printed issue to reference the page numbers.

Continue reading “A History of Education In Australia”

INF541: Assessment 4: Reflection

Reflection (660 Words)

Learning through play is not a new concept to me; studying Piaget and Vygotsky in my undergraduate Early Childhood Education degree is what sold learning through play to me, at least for children birth to eight years.  What this course has opened up to me more than ever is the benefits of learning through play – firstly in digital environments (not really part of my studies twenty years ago) and secondly for older students and adult learners.  Additionally, computers and digital gaming consoles are not new to me.  As I wrote on the forum, I grew up in a house with a computer from about the age of three in the early 80s, and live with a web-developer, so I am well acquainted with digital technologies (Parnell, 2019a).

Game Based Learning is theoretically appropriate for all ages, although the method really sings when used for older learners who benefit from the challenging tasks and world building offered, in a way that is difficult (or impossible) and expensive to reproduce as a hands on task.  Medical students can practice surgical procedures in a risk-free virtual environment, forklift drivers can practice safety procedures where no property can get damaged and, as I explored in Assessment Two, students can play with the orbit and tilt of a planet to examine the effects, without risking the lives and safety of billions of people.

Digital Game Based Learning (DGBL) is a proven way to increase student engagement (Woo, 2014; Pereira de Aguiar, Winn, Cezarotto, Battaiola, & Varella Gomes, 2018), improves problem-solving skills (Tsekleves, Cosmas, & Aggoun, 2016), aids in memory retention and retrieval (Jean, 2019) and encourages students to pursue further study in subjects that incorporate it (Dobrescu, Holden, Motta & Wong, 2019).  Recent studies suggest that group or team DGBL increases students ability to achieve a flow state (Chan, Leung, & Kung 2019) and improves students’ teamwork and communication skills (Boikou, 2019).

However, the creation of DGBL environments is time consuming for teachers (Dondlinger & McLeod, 2015) and generally cost-prohibitive to purchase, unless the environment is going to be used across an entire school or school system.  Some examples of successful implementation of DGBL include World of Warcraft (Fletcher, Emadi-Coffin, & Hetherington, 2016) and Minecraft Education Edition (Stuckey, 2018) however these out of the box, commercial applications still require teacher expertise to successfully create meaningful learning experiences within the DGBL environment. Depending on the teacher’s own level of digital literacy, which isn’t always proficient (Urbani, Roshandel, Michaels & Truesdell, 2017), the time investment required to implement DGBL may be too great.  Even teachers who have been part of fully funded projects to bring digital media into the classroom failed to continue its implementation once the project was over, citing a lack of both time and money to continue the implementation of this type of learning (Share, 2009).

The single most important issue that has me sold on game based learning is the “safety” aspect (Parnell, 2019b).  In a game, unlike in an exam, failure is fine, and most definitely expected (McGonigal, 2012). In fact “games are all about exploration in a safe space” (Extra Credits, 2016, timestamp 6:30).  Karl Kapp, a renowned author and speaker on GBL, says a student’s ability to explore and experiment in a safe environment with no penalties for mistakes is really important for learning (Learning News, 2019). We know from Maslow’s (1943) Hierarchy of Needs that students aren’t ready to learn if their safety needs aren’t met.  In addition, if students are in a classroom situation where they feel especially safe, they are more able to learn.  If students feel they are in a safe place where failure is not only possible but an expected part of the learning experience, they will flourish and take learning risks they never would have been willing to take before.

I hope to take what I have learned about GBL into my casual teaching and any library or teaching positions I hold in the future.


Boikou, Α.G. (2019). Game based learning’s impact in learning achievement: a systematic review. Retrieved from

Chan, C. K., Leung, H. M., & Kung, M. W. (2019). Understanding the Effect of Gamification of Learning Using Flow Theory. In Shaping the Future of Education, Communication and Technology (pp. 3-14). Springer, Singapore.

Dobrescu, L., Holden, R., Motta, A., & Wong, C. (2019). Fun in education. SSRN 2772371. Retrieved from

Extra Credits (2016, Dec 7) Because games matter – A better vision – Extra credits. Retrieved from

Fletcher, B., Emadi-Coffin, B., & Hetherington, J. (2016). Massive Multiplayer Online Games Communities: Lessons for Diversity in School Classrooms.

Jean, P. H. (2019). Brain-based and learning theories: Application of theories in the classroom. European Journal of Education Studies. 5(12). Retrieved from

Learning News (2019, April) Stop thinking like an instructional designer – start thinking like a game designer’ – Karl Kapp, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, explains how learning can benefit from the techniques used in game design in an in-depth interview with Learning News at LT19uk. Retrieved from

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological review, 50(4), 370.

McGonigal, J. (2012). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. Vintage: London.

Parnell, E. (2019a)

Parnell, E. (2019b) Module 3.2 Games are all about…  Retrieved from

Pereira de Aguiar M., Winn B., Cezarotto M., Battaiola A.L., Varella Gomes P. (2018) Educational Digital Games: A Theoretical Framework About Design Models, Learning Theories and User Experience. In: Marcus A., Wang W. (eds) Design, User Experience, and Usability: Theory and Practice. DUXU 2018. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 10918. Springer, Cham

Share, J. (2009) Voices from the trenches: Elementary school teachers speak about implementing media literacy. In Tyner, K. (Ed.). (2009). Media literacy : New agendas in communication. Retrieved from

Stuckey, B. (2018) Minecraft: Education Edition. Pathways across the Australian curriculum. [pdf file] Retrieved from

Tsekleves, E., Cosmas, J., & Aggoun, A. (2016). Benefits, barriers and guideline recommendations for the implementation of serious games in education for stakeholders and policymakers. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(1), 164-183.

Urbani, J. M., Roshandel, S., Michaels, R., & Truesdell, E. (2017). Developing and Modeling 21st-Century Skills with Preservice Teachers. Teacher Education Quarterly, 44(4), 27+. Retrieved from http:// u=csu_au&sid=EAIM&xid=80b0979a

Woo, J. C. (2014). Digital game-based learning supports student motivation, cognitive success, and performance outcomes. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 17(3), 291-307.

Week Twelve Wrap Up and the Coming Weeks

Week Twelve Wrap Up

  • Get first draft of Part A for ETL505 complete
  • Proofread entire ETL505 assignment ✔︎ and get someone else to proofread
  • Submit ETL505 assignment✔︎
  • Finish first draft of INF541 Rationale ✔︎
  • Finish first draft of INF541 Reflection ✔︎
  • Complete the last small section of my escape room ✔︎
  • Submit INF541 assignment (this isn’t due until the following Friday so I do have a little wiggle room if needed)
  • Re-read expectations for Study Visits, and the ETL507 assessments, especially the post-study-visit one ✔︎
  • Ideally I would like to write a blog post about the classification of a book I borrowed from my local library, but this is not a priority this week
  • I ideally don’t want to work more than two days next week, although I will make an exception if the third day is a library day and my uni work/assignments are on track – ✔︎ basically I got sick and lost my voice so that ruled out the possibility of work for most of the week.

I was also able to get a few people who weren’t family members to play-test my escape room this week.

Week Thirteen

For me, week thirteen is study visits Tues to Fri.  I’m visiting the State Library NSW, Customs House Library, Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library, Law Courts Library of NSW, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital – Susman Library, University of NSW Library and Sydney Institute of TAFE, Ultimo College Library.

On the Wednesday evening I’ll be at the CSU/ALIA social.  CSU Social Wed 29th 5pm Hotel Sweeneys

Week Thirteen (Study Visits) Goals

  • Each afternoon/evening after my visits I want to take some notes while they are still fresh in my mind, because I need to write a 1200 essay and a 300 word reflection on my visits, and the week after visits I’m on prac so I need to get this down ASAP.
  • Have lunch with fellow student, Jodie Webber.
  • Attend the CSU/ALIA social I helped organise.
  • Have both INF541 and ETL505 assignments submitted on the Monday, if not before.
  • Meet with Soraya, one of my team members from the ALIA National 2020 Committee
  • Research on my chosen study visit essay topic

Week Fourteen, Fifteen and Sixteen (Prac Placement) Goals

  • I want to work a variety of shifts, including at least one weekend and one evening shift.
  • I want to make a good impression (I want to work there!)
  • I want to learn everything I can
  • I want to bring my expertise as a teacher to the library

Session Break Goals

  • Prepare for chairing a session at NLS9
  • Attend NLS9
  • Do some more casual teaching and maybe even some more school library shifts
  • Read! Read! Read! I’m nearly finished the books I got for my birthday in March (only a few chapters left) but I have another two new books on my shelf since and two books from the library, so I’d really like to get some reading done.
  • Go on a long walk (bushwalk?) or three
  • Get a head start on my final subject – ETL504
  • Get started on my reflective portfolio



The Year Of Living Danishly – A Dewey Discussion

Recently, I borrowed the book The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell.  It is an autobiography of sorts; the author – a journalist – finds herself living in Denmark for a year, and sets out to find out what makes Danes the happiest people in the world.  It’s definitely memoir, lifestyle, social experiment.

And yet I found it alongside travel guides for Denmark.
Cover of book

Why? How is this possible?

Well, it turns out that most libraries classify it as

900 – History and Geography

940 – History of Europe

948 – Scandinavia and Finland

948.9 Denmark and Finland. Trove stops here – 948.9

and then I lose the thread to get to 948.950612. One NSW library uses this specific Dewey number for their electronic copy of the book.

I don’t see this is a history book.  It’s definitely about culture.

But this is not where my library classifies it.

My library classifies it as

900 – History and geography

910 – Geography and travel

914.89 – Using table 2 for 4- Europe 48 – Scandinavia – 489 Denmark and Finland

Which means it sits with the travel guides (Lonely Planet Denmark is 914.8904).

To me, another option (less popular but used enough to warrant a mention on Classify) makes more sense.

300 – Social Sciences

306 – Culture and Institutions

306.09 – Social history

306.09489 – From table 2, 4 for Europe, 48 for Scandinavia, 489 for Denmark and Finland

That at least places it in with social customs, rather than travel guides.

The back of the book has a small topic guide – Society/Travel. But it’s primarily society, not travel and definitely not history.

Dewey Number and Book Number

Mystery #2. My local library uses the title (well the first three letters of the title) as the book number, instead of the author like SCIS does.  Is this common?  I checked two other libraries I’m a member of that Trove listed as having a copy, and they both use “RUSS” for the book number.