Beals Library receives grant to expand autism services

  • Winchendon library staff member Alexis Chanthachack (center), who is spearheading the See Beyond the Spectrum initiative, along with the individuals who inspired her to implement this grant: her son Landon Chanthachack (center), nephew Camryn Simmers-Swanson (right) and long time library patron Zachary Burchfield (left). CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published: 5/24/2023 6:47:11 PM
Modified: 5/24/2023 6:44:41 PM

WINCHENDON — The Beals Memorial Library has been selected as one of 240 libraries nationwide to participate in the Libraries Transforming Communities: Accessible Small and Rural Communities, an American Library Association (ALA).

This initiative provides community engagement and accessibility resources to small and rural libraries to help them better serve people with disabilities, according to an announcement from the library.

The award comes with a $10,000 grant. Individuals and families on the spectrum are underserved within Winchendon’s community and the library wants to change that by expanding services through the grant to provide an environment that allows individuals to engage in sensory-friendly programming and special events through the See Beyond the Spectrum initiative.

“The library has a wonderful opportunity to truly make a difference in this community,” said Alexis Chanthachack, the library staff member who led the grant effort. “It can become a place where autistic children, like my son, can experience all the wonder and magic a library has to offer.”

As part of the grant, library staff will host an upcoming community conversation with residents about autism. Learn about upcoming plans and express thoughts on how the library can be made more accommodating for families whose child is on the spectrum.

Through the See Beyond the Spectrum initiative, the Beals Memorial Library will offer a variety of services to the community that will focus on sensory-friendly programming and activities, educating library staff and the community, and expanding the library’s collection. With the aid of this grant, the library will have an opportunity to set an example for other libraries in the area and throughout New England to become better, more accessible resources for individuals and families on the spectrum.

Those interested in getting involved or taking part in the conversation can contact Chanthachack at 978-297-0300 or visit for more information.

Since 2014, ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative has re-imagined the role libraries play in supporting communities. Libraries of all types have utilized free dialogue and deliberation training and resources to lead community and campus forums, take part in anti-violence activities, provide a space for residents to come together and discuss challenging topics, and have productive conversations with civic leaders, library trustees and staff.

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