The Edinburgh City Libraries have been awarded a Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) Excellence Gold Award for tackling inequalities and improving health for the great success of their Visually Impaired People (VIP) service.
According to the COSLA Award website, this notable service was designed by people who are blind and partially sighted, whose firsthand understanding of both issues that need to be addressed and attainability of improvement strategies were essential to the success of the programme.
The site further elaborates that the programme was user-tested at three pilot branches of the library system with great success before being expanded to the 28 libraries in Edinburgh.
The aims of the VIP Service are outlined in their official COSLA Excellence Award application, which is published on the COSLA website. Their goals include the expansion of accessibility and inclusion within the Edinburgh Libraries, and, on a greater scale, the City of Edinburgh Council.
Some additional objectives listed include fostering confidence and community building through library programs and putting people with sight loss in connection with other valuable partner organisations for support when necessary.
Technology is central to the service and its achievements. As described in their COSLA Award application, part of the VIP Service’s plan includes improvement of the technology available to visually impaired users. This means an updated audio book collection, more accessible computers, and speech-to-text software in local libraries.
The VIP Service also runs sessions on how to use tablets and other forms of modern technology, which are advertised on the City of Edinburgh Council website. These sessions keep community members connected and up-to-date as devices continue to evolve. According to their application, this high level of technological advancement and accessibility is unique to the Edinburgh library system.
Once the technological knowledge has been mastered, VIP Service members can share this information with others and continue to play a role in the cycle of learning. This is but one example of the vital community-building that has been achieved by the VIP Service’s initiatives, combating the social isolation of blindness.
According to their COSLA application, new reading groups for the visually impaired have been formed and have seen steady attendance rates since the onset of the VIP Service’s work.
Overall, the endeavours of the VIP Service have been met with overwhelming success. The COSLA website states that since the programme’s creation, that more than 150 people have accessed library services.
For many, this was their first time ever using a library. This proves the duality of the programme’s success: it sustains the library system and services while aiding the visually impaired community.
The COSLA Excellence Awards are designed to honour the achievements of Scottish local government. The libraries’ VIP service was given the prestigious 2016 gold award for Tackling Inequalities and Improving Health. Factors listed on the COSLA Award website and application that contributed to the achievement include its innovation, sustainability, and necessity for the people of Scotland.
According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People, 180,000 people in Scotland undergo sight loss. Through initiatives such as the VIP Service, a major segment of Scotland’s population will enjoy access to technology and literature and remain an integral segment of Edinburgh’s community.