Computers in Libraries
Vol. 21, No. 9 • October 2001 

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Expectations Exceeded!
by Kathy Dempsey 

This issue has got to be one of my favorites. I'm surprised and delighted that it turned out so well. Here's why:

A couple years back we had an issue topic called Exploring Adaptive Technologies (June 1999). When we originally chose this theme in our annual editorial meeting, we all thought it would be a great chance to cover different technologies that don't usually come up in our articles. We planned to demystify various devices that our readers may not have had time to research—or devices that they weren't aware of at all. So it was with great expectations that I put that topic out in the field, and I waited for article queries. I didn't get as many as I'd hoped.

What I found was that not many people felt qualified to write about specialized hardware and software for people with disabilities. So we had to work extra hard to put together an issue that we thought was helpful. (Luckily, our columnists came through for us, as always.) After it was published, we did get positive comments about that issue. But still, it had fallen short of my goals.

Well time marches on, and technology marches with it. We wanted to cover a similar topic again because there are new devices available, and many more concerns with Web site accessibility. This year we gave the topic a slightly different spin: Providing for Special Populations. And we hit a gold mine! I'm thrilled with the wonderful and diverse features that we got for this month.

Our lead article is all about putting computers in the libraries of various Native American tribes around the Southwest. Talk about a special population! Natives may not be the first one you think of, but the tribes have many concerns of their own. First, they are remote and often lack the electronic infrastructure that many of us take for granted. There are also education and literacy issues, not to mention cultural concerns. Happily, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation addressed them all with a special team of folks who customized programs to donate computers and software, to train library staff and users, and to give ongoing technical support. What a wonderful story.

Another "special population" you may not often think about is prisoners. Do they use electronic information? What are their libraries like? You'll find the answers, along with interesting anecdotes from a librarian who serves inmates, starting on page 48.

Now, don't worry—for those of you who have been waiting to learn about today's adaptive technology for patrons whose sight, hearing, or mobility is impaired, we've got that covered too. Our authors have written about hardware and furniture, software, Internet issues, and legal considerations in three features and three columns. Each has a different twist, and each is packed with valuable insights and useful information.

Consequently, this issue has exceeded my expectations! I hope you'll feel the same way.

Kathy Dempsey, Editor

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