As libraries of all types strive to serve diverse communities, Universal Design offers principles and approaches that can be used to create welcoming spaces and services. Applying Universal Design to Create Inclusive Libraries: A LITA Guide offers a thorough and engaging introduction to Universal Design and concrete examples of how these principles can be applied at libraries of all sizes, types, and budgets.
This guide covers both Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning and includes real examples of how libraries have used these principles to create more welcoming environments and programming. Featuring a mix of examples, case studies, and checklists, this guide is suitable for those who are new to accessibility and inclusion work. Examples discussed cover a range of types of projects for all budgets, from major renovations to in-house signage design projects. Libraries covered include public libraries, academic libraries, school libraries, and more. It will leave readers confident of steps that they can take at their library to improve inclusion at any price point.
Carli Spina is associate professor and head of research & instructional services at SUNY’s Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She holds a J. from the University of Chicago Law School, an MLIS from Simmons GSLIS, and an MEd from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. While at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, she completed coursework on accessibility and Universal Design, including taking a course from Prof. David H. Rose, who defined Universal Design for Learning. This educational background offers her a unique perspective on Universal Design, accessibility, and services for disabled patrons that considers legal, pedagogical, and practical considerations. Spina has extensive experience working on projects related to accessibility, Universal Design, user experience, and technology in libraries as well as serving as a coordinator for services to patrons with disabilities. She served as the inaugural chair of LITA's Diversity and Inclusion Committee and as the leader of the ASCLA Library Services to People with Visual or Physical Disabilities That Prevent Them from Reading Standard Print Interest Group. She has worked with a number of professional organizations, libraries, and other organizations to offer training and support on Universal Design, inclusion, and accessibility. She has also written extensively on disability, accessibility, and Universal Design, including for Theological Librarianship, Marketing Libraries Journal, the Association of Research Libraries, WeaveUX (forthcoming), and School Library Journal.
Carli Spina’s Creating Inclusive Libraries by Applying Universal Design is a superb addition to the body of literature supporting inclusive design to library infrastructures and services. The book provides a clear and concise overview of the basic concepts of Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning based on foundational literature in these areas, followed by clear and concrete example that illustrate the why, the what, and the how for inclusive practice and the practicality. Spina encourages library decision-makers to consider and appreciate the natural difference between users and to seek user input early in the planning process, reminding the reader that it is much more expensive and worrisome to retrofit than it is to design well from the start.
The book would be an excellent choice for either an undergraduate and graduate foundational textbook/how-to guide for courses on Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning. It is well-written and presents a solid review of core relevant literature in a very accessible fashion, while also shaping best practice. Spina couches the discussion on inclusion and anti-discriminatory design to avoid marginalizing users. I appreciate this perspective--that when we build structures and services that do not meet the needs of our users universally, we are disablingthem from being able to enjoy full inclusion.
The first half of the book (Chapters 1-7) focuses squarely on Universal Design, including why Universal Design is important, specifics of how to incorporate Universal Design in library settings (using concrete examples to underscore its importance), and then a series of case studies (Chapter 6) followed by a comprehensive checklist for applying Universal Design in library settings (Chapter 7). This checklist alone is incredibly valuable for aiding libraries as they make decisions about library projects with architects and other partners. The checklist covers specific areas of concern, including entrances, fixtures, lighting, furniture, signage, but also includes questions that will help when designing services and programming, developing the collection, and even hiring and professional development.
Chapters 8-13 repeat the same structure but with a focus on Universal Design for Learning, doubling the value of this book. She clearly explains the concepts of multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression and her case studies and checklist guide the reader through decision-making that ‘considers factors far beyond a user’s abilities’.
Spina’s book should be required reading for all those involved with building a library, doing a renovation, or just changing an existing workspace. Cynical readers may suggest that of course one wants to be inclusive—that is what the ADA is all about—and Spina addresses this. But she goes further both intellectually and with practical examples. This reviewer was particularly impressed by the discussion of the aspirational nature of universal design. Spina offers criticism of universal design, and she does a good job with examples, pointing out that much can be learned from failed attempts. The volume is nicely organized: it comprises 14 chapters, each with notes and sources. The chapters are arranged logically but all could stand alone. Case studies for both design and learning are appropriate and welcome, showing what others tried and what worked and what did not. A perfect tool for an architect at the beginning of a project, this is an insightful and comforting book. Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.
9/1/2021, American Libraries Magazine: Spina's book was featured on a recommended reading list of “Design Inspiration: Resources and ideas for projects of all sizes.”