In June, Berks County Public Libraries announced that several pairs of EnChroma glasses would be available in their countywide catalog. In their associated press release, they shared that "color blind patrons now have the opportunity to explore Berks County in vivid color by borrowing specialty color blind eyewear from their local library."
What are EnChroma glasses? According to their website, EnChroma eyewear is revolutionary patented lens technology that combines the latest in color perception neuroscience and lens innovation to improve the lives of people around the world. Formulated and designed in Berkeley, CA, EnChroma color blind glasses are the result of more than a decade of pioneering research by scientists and are uniquely engineered to deliver custom lens solutions based on specific types of color blindness.
Berks County Public Libraries is the first institution in Pennsylvania where library cardholders in any of the county's 23 libraries can check out a pair of EnChroma glasses.
"There's a common misconception that public libraries are only about books when in fact they offer invaluable services and experiences to people from all backgrounds," said System Administrator Amy Resh. "We're excited for the opportunity to partner with EnChroma and provide these enrichment tools free to the public."
To put things into perspective, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are color vision deficient – which means 13 million people in the United States are affected, and nearly 18,000 in Berks County. At an event on June 26, several members of the community got to see life in vibrant color for the first time.
Photo (from left to right): Tyler Steele, Randy Litwin, Shawn Fies, Daren Ernfield, Stephen Macready.Shawn Fries, a color blind elementary school music teacher in the Northwestern Lehigh School District, said, "as a teacher in an elementary school, I often struggle to help my students know what colors are, and this is often detrimental to my students and their learning! Fortunately, they make names on the side of crayons and markers! I am always cognizant of color blind students in my classroom as I am able to understand their unique color needs."
Randy Litwin, a resident of Berks County, drives a bright red Mini Cooper and, thanks to the EnChroma glasses, got to see his car the way everyone else sees it for the first time. "I thought I knew what red was… it's not that," he said.
All eight pairs of color blind glasses are designed for outdoor use. Berks County Public Libraries will be adding indoor glasses to their collection by the end of the year. All glasses will be housed at the library system headquarters in Leesport and will travel to any of the 23 member library locations when requested. Library cardholders interested in borrowing color blind glasses should place a hold through the countywide catalog or speak with a library staff member for assistance.
Learn more about Berks County Public Libraries via their website: www.berkslibraries.org.
"This is a great example of what libraries do best – discover community needs by listening and learning, and answer them with shared resources," says Susan Banks, Acting Deputy Secretary and State Librarian for the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. "It was moving to witness the importance of community libraries in action at this event. In ways metaphorical and practical, libraries connect people with the world and the world with communities. Everyone is welcome and everyone has a place at the Library."