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"Accessibility of Scottish Public Libraries: An Analysis." L. Bick. D. McMenemy. Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde. 2015. Download PDF (BibTeX)

This study sought to analyse the library services offered to disabled people in Scotland and to assess the accessibility of Scottish public libraries from the perspective of the author, librarians and disabled people themselves.

To do this, Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were sent to each of Scotland's 32 local authorities asking them to provide copies of disabled library users policies (if they existed), if staff awareness training is implemented and at what level, if staff training in the use of assistive technologies is implemented and at what level, if the authority's libraries offer a home delivery service to housebound people, and if the authority's libraries provide accessible reading materials. Two self-completion surveys were also distributed online - one via email to librarians and a second on to the social media pages of two Scottish disability organisations requesting input from disabled people. The surveys asked for the opinions of both groups with regards to the accessibility of their libraries, the challenges they face and how access can be improved.

The FOI requests revealed that an inconsistent service is being provided to disabled people across Scotland, and it is argued that this is largely caused by a lack of national and authority-wide guidelines concerning disabled library users. While authorities in Scotland have made great gains since the implementation of the Equality Act (2010), there is still much work to do.

The surveys revealed that there is an awareness of this inconsistency in the minds of librarians, but they are restricted in the pursuit of the universal library service by budget cuts, structural limitations and lack of contact with disabled people or organisations representing them.

As a result of these findings, the principle recommendation is the development and implementation of national guidelines concerning disabled library users similar to those of the ALA, CLA and ALIA. Such a policy will provide clear objectives and offer no excuse for universal access not to be provided to the very best of every public library's ability. These guidelines offer advice as to how to achieve the universal service and will highlight examples of best practice based upon the findings of the FOI requests and survey results.