ITHACA, NY – In recognition of their efforts to promote accessibility and inclusion for children and families with sensory integration challenges, two members of the Tompkins County Public Library staff have been recognized with the 2016 Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies/Keystone Library Automation System and National Organization on Disability Award.

Youth Services Librarian Kate DeVoe and Library Assistant Kelly Doolittle were selected from a distinguished pool of nominees from throughout the United States for their innovative efforts to create programs and services for patrons with sensory processing disorders and sensory integration challenges.

“Kate and Kelly recognized a community need and responded with programs and resources that have made our library a more accessible and welcoming place for children and families with sensory challenges,” Library Director Susan Currie said. “We are tremendously proud of their efforts and honored that our library has been selected for this prestigious award.

Kate DeVoe (left) and Kelly Doolittle (right). (Provided photo.)

The ASCLA/KLAS/NOD Award recognizes an innovative and well-organized project which successfully developed or expanded services for people with disabilities and will be formally announced during the American Library Association’s annual conference in Orlando next month.

TCPL’s “Adapt and Include” initiative includes sensory storytimes, sensory-friendly film screenings and a sensory station, which offers a selection of tools, such as weighted lap pads, noise-canceling headphones and Fidget toys, to ease the anxieties often associated with group programs and activities.

DeVoe and Doolittle created a wealth of resources for children and families, including a video tour of the library and visual program schedules to help caregivers prepare their children for library visits. They have also established a culture of individual expression and acceptance with programs like sensory-friendly film screenings, where the lights are left on and children are encouraged to move around, make noise and otherwise make themselves comfortable.

“One of the most rewarding experiences for a youth services librarian is to feel like you are helping a child develop a lifelong love and appreciation for books and learning,” DeVoe said. “Our ‘Adapt and Include’ programs have helped us do that for dozens of children in our community, which is a tremendous reward in and of itself. Being recognized with this award is truly an unexpected and gratifying honor.”

DeVoe plans to attend the ALA award ceremony to accept the award, which comes with a $1,000 prize. She and Doolittle will use the money to develop additional programmatic offerings for children with sensory challenges, including a Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics (STEAM)-based program providing hands-on learning activities.

For more information about the ASCLA/KLAS/NOD award or to view a list of past winners, visit

For more information about sensory programming at TCPL, contact Carrie Wheeler-Carmenatty at (607) 275-1548 or

Funding for the “Adapt and Include” program was provided by the Bernard Carl and Shirley Rosen Fund and the Tom and Maria Eisner Fund of the Community Foundation of Tompkins County.

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.