An establishment that is over 140 years old may not seem like a natural choice for a feature on accessibility and inclusion, but the team at the Guille-Allès Library have gone above and beyond in recent times with their efforts to make this former dance hall - I know, that was news to us too! - a hub for everyone in our community.
An inclusive community can be summed up as one that leaves no one behind, and here are some of the ways our local library is doing its bit to make this happen.
This beautiful old building, set over four sprawling floors, throws up a few challenges from the point of view of physical access, and adapting a historical building to meet the needs of everyone is undoubtedly a challenge. But it’s a challenge the team at the library has risen to. Modern additions to the building include a step-free entrance with an automatic door, a lift which is big enough to accommodate wheelchairs and mobility scooters, and an accessible toilet. If you’re getting there by car, there are blue badge parking spaces besides the Town Church and you can drive into Market Square for drop-off and collection before 10.00am each morning. Not perfect if you have reduced mobility, but it’s hopefully understandable under the circumstances.
Of course, real accessibility goes way beyond ramps and handrails. It’s about making sure everyone can access the many services and events on offer at the library and ensuring that everyone feels welcome doing so. That’s where the personal touch comes in. The team is always happy to talk with you ahead of your visit if you have any questions or concerns, and a warm welcome awaits you the moment you step into the library, where you’ll find an actual real person at the reception desk to help you with your enquiries, or simply greet you with a friendly smile.
Many organisations claim to be open to everyone and words like inclusion can sometimes be used without the substance to back them up. We think the library has stepped up to the mark. The library offers a safe place where members of our community can feel respected and express their identity, regardless of their age, gender, ability or social background. It’s financially accessible to everyone in our community - aka free! - and there is a wide range of individuals and groups who use the library as their base. Students can find a quiet space to study alongside families enjoying the fun of the children’s library. There are IT drop in sessions for all ages to help you become more computer literate, guided meditation sessions at lunchtime if you need a moment to de-stress from work pressures, and regular reading groups, including Lit with Liberate to enable gender expression and help us all join the conversation.
Take a look around and you’ll discover many different practical ways the library can support our needs as a community. There are PCs on adjustable sit / stand desks, weighted lap pads, accessible keyboards and a collection of braille and large print books. For those who need peace and quiet to be able to enjoy the facilities there are designated quiet areas and even noise cancelling headphones available to make your time at the library a less stressful and more tranquil experience. And of course, assistance dogs are always welcome!
There is, of course, a whole spectrum of hidden disabilities, and the library staff work hard to create an environment that is inclusive and supportive for people dealing with daily challenges that are not immediately recognisable. Staff have received training from the Guernsey Disability Alliance and they have also worked closely with Autism Guernsey to make a trip to the library as easy and welcoming as they can for people who might otherwise struggle to access their services. This support can start before you even visit the library for the first time, by viewing the library’s social story for an idea of what to expect once you get there. When you arrive there are sensory relief kits available if you need them, which include, among other things, emotion communication cards and fidget tools.
Did you know that you can even enjoy the library from the comfort of your own home? Whether you’re looking for a new hobby, a nourishing recipe or just want to escape into a novel, it’s all available online. And there's so much more than books. We think you'll be surprised if you take a look at these 10 Reasons To Use The Library Online. Alternatively, if you’re looking for the library experience but don’t want to venture into the main library there are several community libraries dotted around the island. There’s also late night openings on Tuesdays and Thursdays in town, if you want to access the library outside regular working hours to grab a coffee, browse a magazine, do a puzzle or join a group.
Oh, and let’s not forget, you can also borrow books while you’re there too!