Penny shares their worries about being in a university library and some thoughts on how libraries can be designed to reduce anxieties in autistic students.
The things I worry about when I think about libraries
I’m autistic and I find some spaces really difficult places to be, including some libraries.
- 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
Why the University of Sheffield libraries are OK for me
- The range of spaces means I can always find somewhere quiet to go, even at the busiest times (I like the Diamond best)
- Some of the desks have reading lamps, which I find a bit better than overhead lights
- The barriers are open between 8.30am and 9pm, but even outside those times (the library is open 24 hours a day) there is a gap between the entrance and the barriers and then between the barriers and the rest of the library – so I have space to gather my thoughts
- All the libraries and study spaces have floor plans available and you can ask for a tour or attend one with others on your course
- Every subject has an area of the Library website called a LibGuide, and they have pictures of the specific academic librarian for the relevant subject.
- You can see online at any time what books you have out on loan and they automatically renew for you unless someone else has requested them
Penny worked as a Research Assistant for Autism&Uni and is a PhD candidate in the Information School at the University of Sheffield. They are also a writer, artist, performer, researcher and qualified librarian. They were diagnosed with autism in 2011, while they were an undergraduate student. Their research is about politics, fandom and the internet.