Scientific library for everyone: Accessibility in the Oulu University Library facilities

In this series of blog posts, we will delve into the theme of accessibility in the Oulu University Library. We will also provide tips to help everyone make the most of the library in the most efficient and comfortable way possible. Here in part one, we will discuss the library facilities and the measures taken to improve their accessibility.
Bookshelves and desks in Pegasus Library's History Collection room.

The accessibility of the library facilities and online services is the result of a series of practical actions and choices, the goal of which is to make the library a place that serves all its users – both physically and digitally. Accessibility means that the facilities, together with the online environments and services, are accessible to all users despite possible functional limitations. These limitations may include, for example, vision, hearing, or mobility disabilities as well as other functional limitations such as learning difficulties. An accessible library is an inclusive learning environment that promotes access to sources of information for all its users.

Library's Accessibility Guide contains useful information on the accessibility of e-resources provided by the library.

Accessibility tours through the library facilities

The accessibility features of the four Oulu University Library locations are presented on the library's website. Due to the age of the buildings and the solutions made at the time of their design, not all spaces within the libraries are accessible. The library's customer service is ready to help disabled customers with any questions regarding the library's collections and facilities.

During the past year, we toured the library facilities together with the library’s accessibility working group and paid attention to, among other things, the clarity and bilingualism of the signage, the accessibility of the passageways, the suitability of furniture for different users, and the soundscape of the spaces. For guidance, we used the accessibility recommendations for public libraries published by the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities in 2017. We identified targets for development in all our locations and took steps to correct the situation, for example by renewing signage. In the next few paragraphs, we would like to introduce some examples of other recent accessibility improvements for library users.

Librarian at the customer service desk in Social and Health Care Library
The library's customer service helps disabled customers with all questions related to the library's collections and facilities. Pictured here is the customer service desk in Health and Social Care Library.

Health and Social Care Library

In the library hall, a new height adjustable desk was provided for customers working, for example, with their laptops. The library is also furnished with an adjustable desk with a computer for information searching, and the self-service borrowing and returning machine placed on an adjustable desk of its own enables everyone smooth library usage even during the self-service hours.

Library's self-service machine for returning and borrowing library materials on a height adjustable table.
Health and Social Care Library's adjustable self-service machine for borrowing and returning library materials.

Medical Library

In Medical Library, the furniture has already been renewed during the renovation in 2018, and all workstations for customer use in the first and second floor lobbies are height adjustable. We also acquired an info screen for the library (located next to the customer service point), which supports up-to-date customer communication also during the library's self-service hours.

Desks, books on display and the self-service machine for borrowing and returning library materials in the Medical Library.
First floor of the Medical Library.

Pegasus Library

A new height adjustable desk with a computer for information searching was placed near the course book collection on the first floor of the Pegasus Library. We also acquired height adjustable desks for customer use on the second floor of the library: one was placed in the lobby next to the stairs and another in the reading room loan storage space (PK201). Additionally, a height adjustable desk is now available on the third floor at the OuluREPO workstation (previously known as the e-thesis workstation) which provides access to University of Oulu theses with restricted access and other University of Oulu publications as well as self-archived publications.

The newspaper reading area on the first floor was furnished with height adjustable desks for customer use already. More height-adjustable desks will be acquired in the future, thus ensuring that even more library customers will have the opportunity to adjust the working space to their needs. We will also acquire an induction loop for the library's customer service to help customers with hearing aids.

Computer on a height-adjustable desk for browsing the library catalogue in Pegasus Library.
A new height adjustable desk with a computer for browsing the library catalogue is placed next to the course textbooks in Pegasus Library.

We hope for feedback on the functionality of the library facilities

Improving the accessibility of our library facilities is a project that is still ongoing. Have you encountered obstacles using the library? To provide feedback by using the anonymous feedback form, please choose accessibility as your topic. You can also give feedback directly to the library staff or by sending e-mail to Feedback from our customers helps us to make our services and facilities more accessible and functional to all.

Tommi Lindström
Kirsi Vähäkangas
Leena Ilkko
Oulu University Library