The library isn’t just somewhere you can get books. It’s somewhere you can do your work on your own or with others, escape sensory overload and get some help with studying. This section will introduce our library and the services it can offer you.
Libraries are great places not only because they are full of resources but because they symbolise what university is all about, learning. Some students spend many hours at the library while others prefer working elsewhere. Whatever your preference is, you will need to come into contact with the library to get access to materials and reading material. In fact, a research project conducted at the Department of Psychology a few years back showed that there is a significant correlation between students’ final grades and visits to the library. So the message here is: engage with the library, as soon and often as possible.
We have dedicated specialist library staff who understand autism and want to help you make the most out of your time at the University. They can help you with finding, choosing and using library resources, amongst many other things. For instance, they can help you to familiarise yourself with the building, teaching you how to do searches for materials, or directing you to the best areas in the library for you to work.
How could this affect me?
Many students in the Autism&Uni surveys conducted by Leeds Beckett university mentioned the library as somewhere they really enjoyed being, whether they needed some quiet space to get away from it all, find some help or just to get some work done.
However, some autistic students find libraries stressful. Here is what Penny, a PhD student at the University of Sheffield, finds difficult:
- I think of libraries as quiet places where I can do work or even just go to get away from everything, but now everyone does group work in them, they are crowded and noisy
- I don’t like bright lights in big buildings
- I find barriers where you have to swipe a card or insert a ticket quite stressful and busy and that means I’m stressed when I get past them
- I can get lost very easily
- I need to know what somewhere looks like inside to feel comfortable
- I prefer to know what people look like before I meet them
- I have had big library fines in the past because I forgot what books I had and they went overdue
So how does our library address these concerns?
Our library is designed to cater for everyone. It offers silent study floors if you prefer to work in silence, there are desks which have separators between each space to give you more privacy. There are also many group study areas in the library that can be booked online, these rooms require at least 2 people to be present in the room. These rooms offer a quieter and more relaxed way to study in the library. And all around the library your will find a variety of seats so you can choose which ever makes you feel more comfortable. If all that fails, there are many laptops available to use in the library if the computers are too busy so you can take them to somewhere less busy in the library.
The library also helps students to not to get fines for late returns of books and materials by emailing you before they are due to be returned. That way, you can return them on time or renew them either online or at the library.
The library staff are there to help you. You do not have to disclose your diagnosis to them, all you need is to explain to them what support you need. But do this as soon as possible as sometimes there may be delays in getting the materials you need.
There is an online librarian chat facility so, if you are not comfortable asking a person face to face, you can do it over that, and it is live so you get very quick responses.
What to do next?
Make an appointment with the library additional needs coordinator.
- Make an appointment with the additional needs Co-ordinator, Linda Jones by email or phone as soon as possible. In this meeting she will have a chat with you to find out more about what, if any, support you may need.
- Keep an open channel with the library as your needs may change over the year. For instance, at the beginning you may need help with navigating the building but later you may need help with locating reading resources nearer a deadline.
- If you prefer, you can ask your tutor to contact the librarian on your behalf.
- Visit the library when it’s quiet to check out the facilities and how it is organised.
Questions to think about
Before you meet the librarian think about the following:
- What support has worked in the past for you, and what has not worked so well?
- Do you have any difficulties reading? If so, what makes it easier?
- Are there any sensory issues that may make it uncomfortable for you to visit the library?
- Do you think you may need help locating reading resources online or physically at the library?
This toolkit is an adaptation of the Autism&Uni project led by Marc Fabri from Leeds Beckett University, under license CC BY 4.0. The original Autism&Uni project was funded with support from the European Commission with partners in the UK, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. For more information about this project please visit the Autism&Uni website.