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Cambridge LibGuides

Find out more about our library services, facilities and resources

Accessibility and inclusivity: Cambridge libraries toolkit

Building accessibility guidelines from the University of Cambridge Sub-Committee on Accessibility

The Sub-Committee on Accessibility for the University of Cambridge have produced some guidelines for Cambridge library staff working on buildings projects, or thinking about aspects of their library buildings. 

The 'Basic Guidance for Library Access and Use' document provides detailed guidelines on key aspects of library building accessibility. The 'Library Access Checklist' document contains a list of criteria to assess the accessibility of a library building. 

Both documents can be downloaded via the links below.

Advice from Cambridge libraries

Futurelib logo and text reading imagining the future or library services at University of Cambridge

Research conducted by Cambridge University Libraries' Futurelib programme has shown that the capacity for individuals to tailor and customise their own working environment can be incredibly valuable. Providing options in terms of adjustable light and noise levels, as well as adjustable furniture, or a range of different types of furniture, is extremely important to support library users with a diverse range of needs and approaches to study. 

When designing and furnishing library spaces, think about:

  • Providing adjustable furniture, such as adjustable chairs and tables. If this is not possible, provide a range of furniture to support different postures and needs.
    • See the 'Providing accessible furniture' section at the bottom of this page for more detail on how to go about sourcing accessible furniture at the University of Cambridge.
  • Giving users options to control their individual working environment, for example, noise-cancelling headphones and earplugs, dimmer-switch desk lamps, laptop stands.
  • Providing inter-connected spaces with different features, facilities, atmospheres and aesthetics, noise and light levels, to support different working activities and user needs.

The Futurelib 'Protolib' project provides guidance as to designing a range of inter-connected library spaces, with different features and providing different experiences for library users.

Click here to read the full Protolib project report

Advice from the Students' Union

The following statement is from the Cambridge University Students' Union Disabled Students' Officer, 2018 to 2019:

"Disabled people, like everyone else, have a whole variety of different - and sometimes conflicting - needs and preferences when it comes to study spaces. Aside from the more obvious space-related issues, like wheelchair and step-free access, there are lots of factors that come into play: lighting, sound levels, seating... Some of us need silent spaces free of distraction to be able to concentrate; on the other hand, some of us need to be able to move around, fidget, lie down, or make noise to enable us to be productive.

"Making spaces, and norms of conduct within those spaces, flexible and varied is really important. No one space will ever be fully accessible for everyone!"


Logo for Spacefinder website

People have a wide range of study space needs and preferences, and may need to vary where they work regularly.

The free Spacefinder website has been developed by the Futurelib programme, Cambridge University Libraries, to help students and others find their ideal study space. Spacefinder allows people to search for study spaces based on location, or by specific features and facilities, including aspects such as atmosphere and noise levels, features such as access to natural daylight and facilities such as gender neutral toilets.

Click here to access Spacefinder.

Click here for more information about Futurelib

A range of library spaces

Hand drawn sketch of a small low intensity work space, with sofas, book shelves and rugs, and people reading inside
Hand drawn sketch of medium intensity workspace, with people working at computers on desks facing the wall, desk lamps, plants and coffee present
Hand drawn sketch of people talking and working in a library, near book shelves
Hand drawn sketch of a break space, with take a break written on the wall and various games and activities available
Hand drawn sketch of a small group work space, with four people working together, pointing at problems on a whiteboard and talking to each other

Library websites

It is useful for all library users to have as much information as possible about a library space before visiting. To support a diverse range of user needs and preferences, library websites should include:

  • A map of the library space/s, alongside a map of where the library is within the University, and how to access the library via different transportation
  • Photos of the spaces within the library
  • A list of key accessibility features, e.g. ramps, electric doors, lifts
  • Descriptive information about spaces within the library, e.g. atmosphere, noise levels, facilities

Providing accessible furniture

It is recommended that each library has at least one height-adjustable desk, an ergonomic and height-adjustable chair, and an accessible lamp

The University has an online furniture quotation form available. Click here to access the online quotation form for accessible (and other) furniture.

  • When completing the form, be as descriptive as possible but avoid listing any particular brands.
  • It is advisable to give suppliers a deadline to reply to requests by.
  • Once completed, the form will automatically be sent to all of the University's preferred suppliers. Suppliers will then get in touch via phone or email to provide quotes for, and details of, suitable furniture.
  • A purchase order is then drawn up by, or on behalf of, the purchaser, and sent directly to the supplier.

All of the University's preferred furniture suppliers are able to supply ergonomic chairs. One chair that has been recommended is the Platinum Ergo Task Chair, which comes equipped with seat height and tilt, back height and tilt, adjustable headrest, height adjustable fold down arms, seat slide mechanism and inflatable lumbar support.

The responsibility for purchasing accessible furniture may fall under the remit of an individual library, department or faculty, depending on circumstance. Each Cambridge college will have its own procedure for purchasing and acquiring furniture.

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