Students with invisible disabilities : unique challenges for academic librarians in Ireland

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Mooney, Grainne
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MSc Information and Library Management
Dublin Business School
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This dissertation examines the unique challenges academic librarians in Ireland face in providing their services and supports to students with invisible disabilities. It is a qualitative study, undertaken over the months of June, July and August 2016 which involved a number of one to one interviews of academic librarians based in Dublin, Kildare and Belfast. The research outlines the current awareness of invisible disabilities within the academic library sector and the resources and best practices currently in use in the provision of library facilities to third level students with invisible disabilities. The research also shows that there is an increasing number of students with disabilities attending third level education and that most of these students have an invisible disability. The study finds that academic librarians tend to have a proactive approach in their provision of services to this cohort of students and shows them to be actively involved in the sharing of their knowledge and experience and engage in close collaboration with their respective disability support services and access offices. The diverse nature of conditions that constitute an invisible disability adds greatly to the challenges faced by academic librarians and their desire for further training in this area is very much apparent. This research also draws attention to the existence of any unintentional barriers within each library which may be causing issues for students with invisible disabilities. Overall, this study shows academic librarians have a keen interest in invisible disabilities and how they impact on their students. It shows the librarians to be actively involved in providing effective services and supports to these students and are constantly looking at ways in which they can improve these supports. Author keywords: Invisible disability, academic librarian, resources, awareness, supports, students, barriers, third level education,assistive technologies, best practices