In honor of Fishers’ celebration of National Disability Awareness Month, we’re featuring community stories related to disability and inclusion throughout the month on the This is Fishers blog. Learn more about the celebration and how you can be an ally for disability inclusion at fishers.in.us/DisabilityAwareness.
On the first Thursday of each month, the Hamilton East Public Library hosts a book club for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities called Check your Shelf. The club is run by HEPL librarians Ally Muterspaw and Danielle Acton.
Both Acton and Muterspaw received their master’s degree in Library Science from Indiana University. Acton has been working as a librarian since 2006, and in 2019 made the move from Anderson to Fishers, where she is now the Adult Engagement Coordinator for both the Fishers Library and the Noblesville Library.
“I work collaboratively with a lot of library staff members, including the Public Services librarians, who help plan and present programs for adults,” Acton said.
For Muterspaw, this is her first post-graduation library science job. She is a Public Services Librarian, where she has been involved in many different aspects of the library, both in front of and behind the scenes.
“I have been a part of the diversity team almost since I started,” Muterspaw said. “Part of that was helping craft the diversity statement for the team and for the library, where I regularly host book clubs.”
Both librarians help facilitate the new Check your Shelf book club, which was an idea brought forth by a community member.
“Mari Kennedy, Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability member and Thrive Social Club founder, reached out to see if the library could host a book club for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Acton said. “She saw a need in the community for a social club and group.”
In September of last year, Check your Shelf had its first in-person meeting. The club has faced many setbacks due to the pandemic and ongoing construction at the Fishers Library, however, that has not impacted the eagerness of the members.
“Especially after our first in person meeting, we were excited to have that social interaction,” Acton said. “Everyone was thrilled to get their first book to take with them, and to read and discuss it next time.”
For Check your Shelf, meetings are often more structured than other adult book clubs. Moderators Acton and Muterspaw often work to keep discussions on topic by preparing questions and a story recap beforehand.
“We really try to incorporate people’s own experiences into the discussion, and it is a little more intentional than a typical book club,” Muterspaw said.
In addition to discussions, a unique aspect of the club is that everyone is not always reading the same book.
“Rather than everyone getting together and reading the same thing, we’ve recently tried to give them freedom to read at their own ability level,” Acton said.
This accessibility and access to programs is extremely important, since once adults with disabilities leave school, opportunities to experience lifelong learning are often limited.
“At the library, our goal is to serve everybody, but our goal is also to prioritize sometimes underserved communities,” Muterspaw said. “They are adults just like us and their intellects and passions should be taken just as seriously.”
Check your Shelf takes place from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Fishers Library and is open to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their caregivers, and their allies. The club is free to attend and you can find more information on the library’s website.
Learn more about March Disability Awareness Month, see the full lineup of events, and find out how you can be an ally for disability inclusion and show your support for this initiative with our digital toolkit, Ally kits, and language guide at fishers.in.us/DisabilityAwareness.
Laura Masoni is a previous Public Relations Intern for the City of Fishers. She moved to Fishers from Greenwood in 2010. Her favorite activities include traveling, rowing at Eagle Creek, and going to concerts in Downtown Indy. In her free time, she loves to hang out with her friends and listen to podcasts & music.