Skipton library has become the first in North Yorkshire to achieve autism friendly status.
By 2020, the North Yorkshire County Council’s libraries service aims to make all 42 libraries in the county autism friendly.
The campaign has been launched at Skipton library where the team has achieved autism friendly status by following advice from Dimensions, a national not-for-profit organisation that helps to make public spaces more accessible, the Association for Children’s and Education Libraries and the Society of Chief Librarians.
The team also received guidance and encouragement from Sparkles, a Skipton-based support group for parents and carers of children on the autistic spectrum, and SELFA, a Skipton-based charity that nurtures and supports vulnerable children and young people.
One aspect of making somewhere autism friendly is to reduce the uncertainty someone with the condition may feel about visiting, so the library team has produced a site plan for the ground and first floor of Skipton library and a “social story” that explains what happens when someone visits the library. Autism awareness training is offered to all staff and volunteers.
North Yorkshire County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “I am proud and delighted that Skipton library has already achieved autism friendly status. Research carried out by Dimensions revealed that although people with autism and their families are much more likely to visit the library, 40 per cent of families never visit and this is mainly due to outdated perceptions about libraries.
“Our libraries are safe, tolerant and inclusive spaces, and I hope that in achieving autism friendly status we will encourage parents who may have felt unsure about visiting us in the past to use and enjoy our fantastic service.”
The library service has also recently added a new collection of books about autism. The 27 titles in the Fresh Perspectives collection include novels and memoirs focusing on characters with the condition and aim to raise awareness of autism. The collection is available in 12 libraries, including Skipton, Harrogate, Malton, Richmond, Sherburn, Northallerton and Scarborough, and books can be reserved through any North Yorkshire library.