Librarians Redouble Efforts for Accessibility
New librarian Robin Ford hopes that the 89-year-old library will serve as “a beacon for how accessibility can be done”
Librarians at the Hauser Memorial Library are teaming up to make the library more accessible for people with disabilities. While the sprawling building can be difficult to navigate for any student, students with disabilities have often found themselves unable to access many books and study spots due to tight corridors, compact signage, and a litany of other issues. The Quest sat down with Science Librarian Robin Ford and Social Sciences Librarian Joe Marquez to discuss how the library will address issues of accessibility with its upcoming renovations.
Ford, who has been working at Reed for six months and is the library liaison to Disability Support Services, came to the school with a vision in mind: to make Reed the accessibility champion for small liberal arts colleges. “I want the student experience to be not just surviving, but thriving,” she said. In order to achieve this, she has teamed up with the Library User Experience team (LUX), which is headed by Marquez. The two are focusing their energy on incorporating accessibility improvements into all of the library’s development projects. “This is something that will never end,” Marquez explained. “There’s always something that can be better. There isn’t a finish line, and that’s okay.”
The two have teamed up to introduce new ways that the library can be accessible to people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities. Much of their focus is on incorporating accessibility into ongoing library projects. For instance, much of the south wing of the library will soon be renovated for earthquake preparedness. While this might pose a challenge when it comes to relocating thesis desks and books, the librarians also see it as an opportunity to make that area more accessible, such as by adding gender-neutral ADA-compliant bathrooms to each floor and ensuring that all the south wing books are accessible via wheelchair.
Another ongoing project is the creation of an “accessible technology room” on the second floor. This room would contain screen readers, which can read the contents of PDF documents out-loud, and “various types of software that will make print resources accessible to more students,” according to Ford.
However, these librarians understand that they don’t have the whole picture when it comes to accessibility. Ford suggested that they might reach out to interested students in order to help them audit parts of the library: “If someone is in a wheelchair… that’s an expertise that I don’t have. They would be a great person to compensate in order to help us audit the space.”
Ford and Marquez are also working on a survey for students to suggest ways to make the library more accessible. “We want to make sure students feel comfortable talking to us, but we don’t want to assume, as an example, that a student in a wheelchair will want to talk to us about their experiences being in a wheelchair. So we’re making a survey, and if students do want to talk to us, this is one way for them to reach out,” Marquez explained. The survey will be sent out to students via email later this week, and will be hosted at https://library.reed.edu/about/accessibility.html when it goes live. Ford and Marquez also both hold office hours, which can be found on the Reed Library website.