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Librarian looking to meet special needs

Oct 15, 2012 05:51AM, Published by Community News Service, Categories: Community

By Brandon Gould

Through the front door, to the left and down the stairs, around the bend and then straight ahead is a unique section of the Bordentown Library—a section not found in any other library in the area.

Over the last five years, Beverly Jacob, the head of the library’s youth services, has been gathering the necessary materials to establish a special needs section in the lower level of the library.

Jacob, who has a teaching background, has a personal connection to understanding special needs.

She has worked with special needs students in the past, and has accommodated special needs in her own family. Both were helpful experiences she looked to when she began developing the collection.

“I thought to myself, ‘What would I want to read if I wanted to learn more about a disability and do some research so that I have a better understanding of it?’” Jacob said.

Jacob’s understanding of how to develop the collection she now carefully manages began back in 2007 when a member of the Bordentown Library Association came to her with an idea to integrate some books about Autism into the library’s collection.

Jacob was told about the Nelchen T. Sievers Trust, a fund whose stipulations allowed money to be given to a few entities, including the Bordentown Library Association. She began developing a proposal.

After she submitted her written material on the subject, Jacob was surprised by the amount of money that the trust was willing to grant to get the project off the ground. Once she discovered that she had the money to back the idea, Jacob got several opinions on where to start her collection and what materials were essential.

She began to talk with Special Education teachers at the local schools, and they described to Jacob the challenges that the students were facing as well as the challenges that the teachers face. The teachers also stressed that although Autism is the most well-known disability, there are others that need to be addressed, such as dyslexia, bipolar disorder and cerebral palsy, among others.

After receiving this advice, Jacob made her first purchase, which included a few books in the “Children With” series, guides for parents of special needs children, produced by Woodbine House.

Those books are still displayed in the collection, but so many more have joined them.

Jacob has collected books and DVDs that deal with special needs from all angles. Some of the books are relatively unheard of, such as “My Brother is Autistic.” Other books were written by celebrities who have special needs children themselves, like “The Best Kind of Different: Our Family’s Journey with Asperger’s Syndrome” by Shonda and Curt Schilling.

Then there are books that help develop skills for special needs children, such as “I Can Paste” and “I Can Fold.” These books carry over into what Jacob calls the second phase of her project, which deals with “manipulatives.”

Manipulatives are toys and objects that the children can touch and feel. They include things like musical instruments and O-ball Jellies.

“Basically, they’re toys that are for the children to handle,” Jacob said. “(O-balls) have bigger holes, so it’s easier to grab, and are designed for special needs children.”

Jacob learned from her contacts that these types of toys are very helpful in developing skills for children with disabilities, but they are also very expensive. Fortunately, at the Bordentown Library, not only can children play with these toys, they can also check them out as long as they have a library card.

Jacob’s next endeavor was a set of monthly programs for children with special needs ages 4–12. The first was a music class.

“I learned with working with special needs children that music is magic,” Jacob said. “There’s a connection there that is just unbelievable. So, I looked at my regular programming and I had someone who did music programs and I asked her if she would like to do one for children with special needs and she was thrilled.”

After that program was booked, Jacob added others for yoga, storytelling, arts and crafts and Zumba. At the start, Jacob was able to develop what she calls a core group of families that would sign up and the programs were successful. However, this past spring and summer, attendance “drastically” decreased, Jacob said.

Currently, no programs are scheduled for children, although there are programs for adults with special needs, but she plans to host them again if the interest increases and people begin to register. Jacob is already working on adding programs that would include therapy dogs and gardening.

The programs do not require a library card, are free of charge, and are not limited to Bordentown residents.

“So many kids have these needs,” Jacob said. “One day, kids will be so used to seeing things like this, but for now, (things like these) help so that the children don’t have to feel isolated.”

The library, which is part of the Burlington County Library System, is located at 18 East Union St. in Bordentown. For more information, call Jacob at (609) 298-0622, Ext. 209. Email:

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