Universal design and public libraries

view of university of seville library with students sitting at desks. bookcases are in the background. Public libraries have more to offer than just books. Some people stay to read and browse, and others use meetings rooms for their community groups. The role of librarians is to help people to find what they are looking for. They are also keepers of local knowledge and services. People of all ages and backgrounds come and go. That means we are exposed to people with different values and interests. Potentially, that makes libraries a place to forge social inclusion. That’s where universal design comes in. 

Gerd Berget’s writes on the theme of public libraries as places where diverse groups are visible to each other. She argues that public libraries have the potential for increasing respect for each other and thereby reducing social exclusion. In her paper, Berget proposes that the way to introduce more diversity into libraries is to take a universal design approach. 

The paper begins with a history of disability and social justice. The role of public libraries as a physical space follows. The final part of the paper discusses the purpose of universal design and it’s role in social emancipation. Berget discusses the seven principles of universal design and how they apply to libraries in the final part of the paper.

The title the paper is, Universal Design as a Premise for making Public Libraries into Low-intensive Meeting Places. It’s a nicely written piece and good for newcomers to the field of universal design. It covers the philosophy, social issues of disability and the practicalities of universal design. 

Berget concludes

“Although full inclusion is not yet achieved, public libraries have a great potential in increasing the social justice and reducing oppression. To achieve that, librarians need to be aware of and engaged in making (and keeping) the libraries into low-intensive meeting places. There is also a need for more user engagement in the design of the public libraries, both regarding buildings, collections and services. Finally, it is important to a preserve the public spaces that facilitate convivial encounters”.

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