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Diversity and Inclusion: Robotic Librarians Help Autistic Patrons

by on July 21, 2015

Bibli. That is the name given to the robotic librarian that was created in Longmont, Colorado, by the Longmont Library Innovation Team. The Innovation Team worked on a low-cost robotics program to create Bibli. Longmont (CO) Public Library (LPL) partnered with Robauto, a Boulder-based robotics company, and Jalali Hartman, the innovator and creator of Biblio, which is a library robot prototype created to serve children with autism.

Research has fund that many kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have trouble communicating with other people. The robots take that person-to-person communication out of the equation. When asked why robots are so effective in helping to educate kids with ASD, Hartman said, “Technology seems to help create a social bridge — look around at all the people on their phones at the next tech meet-up — and I think robotics are the next evolution of this technology. . . I actually like robots better for education than a tablet or computer, because they get people away from the endless screens and keyboards.” (Brennan 2015)

According to the Robauto website, it costs $198 to purchase the Robot Inventor Kit, which includes both software and hardware, plus training for an Innovation Team member. Most of the team members of the Longmont Library Innovative team are kids with ASD. The library found that even when it appeared as though the kids were not paying attention, they were able to remember instructions and help build the robot.

The feedback from the librarians in Longmont has been positive. Overwhelmingly they felt it helped to create a more inclusive and diverse environment. Libraries strive to serve everyone in the public, and this is an innovative and creative way to serve the ASD population in any town.

Hartman brought his robot to ComicCon in Denver in May 2015. “By the end of the year, he hopes to roll out a robot commercially — developed through working with children from the community he hopes they’ll serve — carrying a price tag in the vicinity of $300-500. The ComicCon visit was in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Education, which rented a booth and subsequently invited the Longmont Library to bring Bibli.” (Brennan 2015).

Works Cited

Brennan, Charlie. “100: Jalali Hartman is Treating Autism with Robots.Times-Call Community Review, 2015.

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