Building an Inclusive Library Through Universal Design

Universal Design
Submitted by Andrew Keck, Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, MN

Building an Inclusive Library Through Universal Design, a recent workshop hosted by Minnesota Theological Library Association (MTLA), included a diverse set of twenty-three guests from area theological, college, university, and public libraries. Carli Spina, Head Librarian for Assessment and Outreach at Boston College, led participants through principles of Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning and how these principles can be applied to library design and programming projects. The workshop consisted of a mix of lecture, discussion, and hands-on activities that asked participants to critically consider the existing spaces and practices at their library.

Universal Design

Universal Design applies to libraries in developing digital spaces, building spaces, and programming to be inherently accessible to the broadest wide range of people. Libraries should carefully consider the flexibility needed for a diverse range of persons and include individuals with disabilities directly in the design phase. Providing clear policies and consistent opportunities for feedback will help identify places for improvement and advance future design cycles. Participants considered areas of the library where elements of universal design had already been successfully implemented and where that flexibility often enhanced access to all. And then, small groups discussed areas of the library that might benefit from further changes and enhanced flexibility.

Design Learning

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Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning applies to libraries through library programming and instruction as well as the library’s support of broader teaching and learning activities. Participants considered how their teaching already incorporated elements of Universal Design for Learning through offering multiple means of engagement, representation, and action & expression. In addition, they considered what could be added to classes and services to address further differences among learners.

Means of engagement includes allowing for learning differences by offering multiple ways to recruit interest, supporting sustained effort, and encouraging self-regulation. Means of representation includes alternative for perception, alternative for language and symbols, and support for comprehension. Means of action & expression includes incorporating physical activities, alternative means of communication, and support of executive functions.

Through learning the definitions of Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning and how these can help to make their library inclusive and welcoming for all members of their patron community, participants developed the skills necessary to implement Universal Design principles at their library across a range of projects from space design projects to curriculum and program development.

This workshop was made possible through grant funding awarded by the Professional Development Committee of the American Theological Library Association.

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