Friends in high places

February 28, 2022

No matter where you live in the country, you have some friends in high places in Wellington.

The team in the IHC Library on the 14th floor of a Willis Street building is ready to connect with anyone with a question about intellectual disability, autism or other developmental disability.

Until recently the librarians have been voices on a phone or names on an email. But lockdowns have brought them into the limelight of Facebook interviews.

It’s hard for librarians to connect with people who have diagnoses of intellectual or development disability because of privacy around health. This can be overcome to an extent by the online platforms.

“That is the advantage of using a platform like that. You can present yourselves,” says Phil Clarke, Head of Library and Information Resourcing at IHC.

He and Reference Librarian Ros Booker appear in interviews filmed for Awhi Ngā Mātua, a Facebook community for parents of tamariki with disabilities and high health needs, supported by IHC. “Awhi Ngā Mātua is a huge benefit to us. There are a whole lot of people we haven’t connected with before. A couple of thousand people read that page,” Phil says.

Ros and Phil cover topics that are on the minds of the families connecting with Awhi. Regular emails also go to IHC Library members, with answers to questions and news about the latest resources.

Phil says there is a big demand for resources covering autism and the various life stages – toileting, transitions to and through school. “Anxiety is always a huge issue. Puberty is a huge topic [and] behavioural resources,” he says. “Approach us with a question and we will go from there. You don’t need to be a member of the library or a member of IHC.”

Phil wants to give people information in the format that work best for them. “We used to lend DVDs quite regularly to people. They go online now. Most people don’t have a DVD player.

“Anyone with a question about intellectual disability has an almost unimaginable pool of information they can access online, but finding authoritative, high-quality information isn’t easy. At the same time as we’ve become so information rich, we’re limited in the amount of time we have to find, read and analyse that information and that means the IHC Library is even more important now,” Phil says.

“There will always be a demand for books and paper resources, but I think the demand will be for information in different ways for different people. We will be summarising and packaging that information more and presenting it in different ways. With Awhi, parents are talking to each other and exchanging information about resources. Another potential resource is apps – what are the best apps out there?”

It’s easy to talk to the librarians and borrow resources. Books, articles, videos, e-books and games can all be accessed for free – the only cost is the return postage to the library. First join the library, either online or by calling 0800 442 442 (extension 42492), or email

Caption:  You don’t need to be in Wellington to ask Phil Clarke and his team a question.


This story was published in Strong Voices. The magazine is posted free to all IHC members. Read the full issue of Strong Voices or view more articles.