This week on the SLIC blog we take a look at a new autism-friendly initiative run by Inverclyde Libraries and Midlothian Libraries. Both library services were awarded funding from the Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF) in 2017, to provide and improve autism-friendly access to resources and services within their respective libraries. Although the aims of the project were the same for both library authorities, each used a different approach. Today we look at Inverclyde Libraries and how they put their Au-some plan into action.
Inverclyde Libraries’ bid was initially informed by feedback from young people from the Inverclyde community with autism who had undertaken a work placement programme within the libraries. Following the placement, they identified aspects of our service which could be improved to enable better access and an enhanced library experience for those with autism. This was a great starting point. As part of the project we then consulted with people with autism and those who support them and a wide range of partners including Scottish Autism, local schools and local support groups. The consultation exercise focused on the library space, resources, services and staff awareness of autism.
Using the funding we addressed the areas for improvement that were highlighted in the consultation feedback. This included:
- The provision of colour-coded floorplans for all of our six branches.
- Increased signage in all library areas.
- Signage indicating noisy/ quiet times.
- Provision of Makaton and British Sign Language book stock.
- An increase in autism-related book stock.
- The procurement of a range of specialist sensory and stress-relieving resources and equipment.
- The introduction of dedicated autism-friendly sessions, Au-some Afternoons, and Autism Awareness, Makaton and Social Stories™ training for staff.
Library staff now also wear Autism Awareness wristbands to highlight their knowledge and understanding of autism, and Au-some Libraries! branded polo shirts during autism-related events. The Au-some Libraries! brand was created to increase the visibility of the project and is incorporated within all promotional material. We have recently incorporated elements of Makaton signing into all of our Bookbug sessions and are currently working on the production of Social Stories™ for the library.