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Neurodiversity and the Library

Some tips and resources for navigating the Library while neurodivergent, and for learning more about neurodiversity

“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” - Dr. Stephen Shore.

This goes for us, too. If we don't get it right at first, it's because we're just meeting you. We can work together to make the library work for you.

Coping with and in the Library

The bad news:

  • the Library is a huge, often confusing building, with many resources and locations, not all of which are library-related;
  • not all spaces are neuro-friendly (noisy, badly lit, etc.);
  • there is no one 'best' resource for all needs, so you will have to learn more than one interface for best results;
  • there are many systems that (mostly) work together, so sometimes there are glitches, which can be very frustrating. (For us, too.)

The good news:

  • libraries are built on the idea of imposing order on a huge variety of resources, once you learn the basics of that order, things get much easier;
  • there are multiple ways to ask for help, so finding something you are comfortable with is likely to be possible;
  • accessibility is a key value in libraries;
  • in general, library employees are diversity-friendly, and that includes neurodiversity - and like any population, we have neurodivergent people, too!

Where to start:

  • If possible, identify why you are coming to the library and specifically what resources or services you need. You might want to ask for help or confirm the location of a resource or service before coming to the building.
  • If you are coming to get resources for an assignment, review the assignment beforehand and have it (the assignment sheet, syllabus, etc.) with you. The more information the librarians have about what you need, the easier it is to get what you need.
  • Know your preferences, and your limits.
    • Do you study best in a very quiet space, or do you prefer some background noise?
    • Would you rather read a physical book, a printed-out article or chapter, or read something online?
    • Are you comfortable working with someone one-on-one for help, or would you rather talk on the phone, get suggestions by email, or work through a tutorial on your own?
    • Do you learn better with step by step instructions, by watching a video, or by trying it out yourself with minimal guidance?
    • Do you need any specific accommodations to use the building or the resources in the Library? For instance: headphones (for noise blocking or white noise/music); assistance in reaching high or low shelves; especially well lit areas or areas without florescent lighting; standing-height work spaces; 3D printed fidget toys; etc.
    • (We can work with all of these!)


Asking for help

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is ask for help. We try and make it easier.

If you are comfortable asking directly, we suggest the Library chat (use the chat icon in the lower right corner) or asking at the Research & Information Desk, on the first/main floor of the Library near the IT desk.

If you aren't comfortable asking directly, we suggest submitting a question in our online form or browsing previously asked questions.

All the ways of asking for help: