Libraries are Forever . . .

Libraries are forever….

When I tell people that I’m a Librarian, the first thing they say is “aren’t libraries going away?” And then my head explodes from keeping a silent “aarrrghhhh!” silent. I then very passionately explain that libraries are not going away. As long as we have words, and we use the words to communicate and learn, and we preserve the communications no matter how long or short or in different languages from different people who have different ideas and theories and opinions, we will have libraries.

Libraries used to be for the wealthy and/or the religious. With the advent of the printing press and scholars who translated books from Latin to modern languages, the total number of volumes increases. Subscription libraries, circulating libraries, and the modern public libraries put books, newspapers, magazines, and (more recently) e-everything in the hands of the common person, educated or not, wealthy, or not, literate or not.

In times of war, it is the Librarians who run around and find the most valuable objects to protect the memory and history of the people the library serves. In times of joy, it is Librarians who proudly display books and poems and objects made by the community the Library serves. Libraries are community, a gathering spot to learn, use equipment you don’t have, share. Some libraries provide breakfast, sometimes clothing, and always a place to sit, read, relax, and accidentally snooze. Librarians as a people are warriors, fighting for truth and justice, protecting civil rights, correcting wrongs, and ensuring both sides of the story are available.

When I take a breathe, my attention turns to CAA’s Library and Media Lab. I remember the hands shooting up in the air after I gave a status report to the student and parents’ councils. One student wanted a book about golf, another wanted a book she read at her grandmother’s house, and another wanted a book of the artwork of Ralph McQuarrie. I said yes to all, whether I was familiar with the title or not. I took my collection development cues from the student and professors. I learned what the students liked; one read stories of the Yeti with her dad, another read the Harry Potter books. Another didn’t read but enjoyed a flip book of dragons. I wanted to make sure the students saw themselves in the shelves, saw the vast and glorious community they are a part of.

This idea of belonging and community was very apparent when the library cards were handed out. Everyone received a card; reading level, age, interest didn’t matter. The library card represented a bond between members of a community. To me, it represented a promise, that there will always be libraries.

Suzanne Williams

CAA Librarian

Reflections from the School of Art Director :)

It was just expected years ago that I go to art college. I painted and drew on anything that didn’t move, so when I began my college career at the Academy of Art University is San Francisco, I dreamed my painting future would be like that of Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, or Mark Rothko without their unexpected endings. Not so.

During my last semester of college, I visited Creativity Explored in SF. The variety of artwork created by adult artists with developmental and hidden disabilities inside this large and colorful studio was breathtaking! These accomplished artists’ paintings, drawings and sculptures were so pure and moving. I spent some time drawing with a woman who was nonverbal, but she spoke loudly. Her colorful drawings, expressive line-work, and beaming smile said everything she could not. I left school that day, changed in my ideas about who else can create art, but more importantly, how much these artists touched my heart.

Jump forward 9 years and through divine intervention and an amazing friend, I met two passionate and courageous women who were starting a college in San Jose for adults with differing abilities. They needed an art instructor and an art department and wanted to know if I was interested. To say I was excited couldn’t nearly describe how I felt. I experienced that heartwarming sensation I felt all those years ago and I knew that this was my tribe.

Now as we celebrate our 10th Anniversary as a college for adult individuals with differing abilities, I can’t help but reflect over CAA’s monumental growth. We’ve nurtured countless classes in the arts, health and wellness, communications and more in many locations. Each move, bringing new experiences to a population of individuals who might not ever have had the opportunity to be creative and express themselves in art forms such as dance, music, or art. For four years, our fearless professors set up classes out of the trunks of their cars, packed them up to travel to and from generous businesses with a little bit of space and a shared belief in our vision for the college which allowed us to grow.

Established colleges around the country for the most part have offered typical adults opportunities in the arts for decades, becoming artists (like myself), actors, writers and entertainers who influence our culture, enrich our lives and fill up social media. But those colleges must have begun from humble beginnings… much like College of Adaptive Arts. Right?

When I see CAA students eyes light up at a new song they will learn or a non-verbal student try their hardest to record a sound for a clay animation voice over, I can’t help but feel that these novel experiences are reaching the hearts and minds of our students just like today’s typical college learners.

Thank you to the families for recognizing that our adults too have dreams of becoming future creatives that make up and contribute to society. To think that only decades ago, people with developmental differences, physical challenges and the like were not only thought as burdens, but also hidden away from society is so heartbreaking. CAA students have so much to offer and share with the world in ways that might look different from typical college students and adults, but still just as valuable and unique.

Each week, I get the privilege to bask in CAA students unconfined joy, witness unconditional friendships, and unbridled eagerness to try and try again as all lessons we can learn from. And most importantly, we all need each other to do this.

All of our college communities deserve seasons to be learners, teachers, mentors and friends.

Recently, I had the unexpected and exciting chance to go back to Creativity Explored and talk about art and autism. I could never have done this if I hadn’t experienced all of these roles just because of one chance opportunity over 16 years ago in a college class which completely changed my life’s purpose, career, and my heart.


Director, School of Art
College of Adaptive Arts

CAA #CardinalStrong

“What Will You Do With Your Building Permit?”

By Pamela Lindsay

I love this picture. It depicts everything that inspired this college. Our students are proving every day how they are capable of great imagination, incomparable growth and achievement of their deepest dreams.  This may look like a picture of a graduation. It is so much more.

This 10th Anniversary brings grateful reflection on the paths that put the pieces and all of us together. In 2009, I was breathing a sigh of relief after completing my master’s degree in the school of Radio, Television, Film and Theatre at San Jose State University. I had settled into a position there as an instructor and theatre director. The topic of my masters’ thesis focused on the arts, education, and social cognitive skill-building. The research had ignited a spark of understanding that for all of us, the key to future opportunities is one simple thing: understanding of our own needs and identification of options to meet them.  The options we identify and help others to understand often point to our personal giftings and, when we embrace them, our joys.

I continued ongoing research into curriculum models and instructional tools that might benefit the college students in my typical classrooms who happened to have hidden developmental and other learning disabilities. It was important to me that those college students understand that there are many approaches to learning, as there are to life. I experienced with them that in those moments when they perceived a door had slammed shut, we could shift their focus another direction down the less traveled (and usually much more interesting) path.

My road to Cardinal life also included work for almost a decade as a consultant to families of learners with differing abilities. I enjoyed the ongoing challenge of finding and delivering special curricula that would fit the continually evolving needs of young people with varied learning challenges. This included my own daughter, who happens to have Asperger’s syndrome.

Little did I know DeAnna and I were on intersecting journeys before we ever met. When we did, there was instant recognition of a kindred spirit. We have many lovely things in common, but what ignites our partnership in this CAA effort and as soulmates on this historic road we are all traveling upon was perplexity over the wonderful options for individuals with differing abilities that turn on a dime and slam doors with cut-off dates and “drop zones.” Who in the world came up with the plan to close doors on programs important for health and wellness, academic education, personal development and community contribution because of a birthday? Certainly not our brilliant Cardinal flyers! They are working hard and taking names!

They are overcomers. That’s why they inspire us every day. When these students make a decision to attend this college, it means they are making a decision to look for an open door. They are choosing to step through it and blaze that less-traveled path for others to follow. They are stepping up. They don’t ask for education, they expect it to happen. And we love those great expectations. As co-founder and Dean, my work in educational development continues toward programs and materials that meet these high expectations and evolving needs through work toward a Doctorate in an area of academics with many potential closed doors-leadership in higher education for students with developmental disabilities. No problem at all; our students just keep reminding me to look for the open ones.

So when they cross the stage at our CAA graduation ceremony, it is not just for a piece of paper. It is their building permit to take it all up a level, every time. It’s a symbol of dedication to and appreciation for the countless earned credits that set them apart as shareholders in their community, and as part of its solid foundation.

They aren’t hoping for opportunities, they are learning to create their own. That’s why it is such an overwhelming joy for De and I to be there on stage to hand them their next diploma.  And shake on the promise that they never have to leave because of a birthday. And to let them know how honored we at CAA are by the gift to serve as architects for their ground-breaking past and future achievements. They are #Cardinal Strong!!