Services for All
Child’s Place for Children with Special Needs, Brooklyn Public Library
MLS, Queens College, CUNY, 1990
Sloan Public Service Award, 2010
Photo ©Sean McGinty Photography LLC
When Carrie Banks joined the New York Public Library (NYPL) in 1987 as a trainee at a midtown Manhattan branch, she noted what the tourists don’t: the library was equidistant to New York City’s first pediatric HIV in-patient unit and what was then the country’s largest family homeless shelter.
Banks’s sensitivity to those with special needs or in vulnerable situations has been key to her ambitious expansion of the Child’s Place for Children with Special Needs, which offers library services to children and teens with disabilities. As supervising librarian since 1997, Banks has taken the Child’s Place from a single branch facility to a five-site system with a range of programs and a Kidsmobile that travels to clinics, day-care centers, homeless shelters, and more.
“Carrie understands that it is not enough simply to open the doors to the branch and hope people drop by,” says former Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) colleague Nicholas Higgins, now supervising correctional services librarian at NYPL. “Rather, it is closer to an imperative of the public library to ensure that people receive services no matter where they happen to be.”
The Child’s Place is an “inclusive” environment meant to appeal to kids with and without disabilities. This integrated approach is increasingly common in special needs education.
Evidence of that is the free two-day Sibshop, developed by the Kinderling Center, that Banks brought to BPL in May 2010, supported by private funding. Attended by more than 60 people and translated into Spanish and Cantonese, the innovative workshop helped the siblings of disabled kids to understand—and appreciate—better their sisters and brothers. Thirty-eight people from the event are now qualified Sibshop facilitators.
Whether on site or in the field, Banks spends most of her time “helping to connect people with the things they need [including] one another.”