Sustainability is about meeting the needs of present generations without compromising the needs of future generations (United Nations, Brundtland Commission). At its core, social sustainability is about people. But how do libraries know if they are providing for the people in their communities? Are they places of sanctuary that improve the wellbeing of their users, or do they cause anxiety for students grappling with complicated systems and environments?
TCD Sense, The Trinity Sensory Processing Project, aims to make Trinity College Dublin more inclusive by reviewing and improving new and existing spaces, building sensory awareness and providing specialist supports to students who experience barriers to managing and adapting to their sensory environments.
User experience research by the Library with students highlighted the impact of the sensory environment on wellbeing and productivity: lighting, noise and a sense of sanctuary affect student comfort in library spaces, especially students who experience sensory overload and have high awareness of the sensory environment.
These findings were reinforced by further research by Trinity’s Disability Service and Discipline of Occupational Therapy, which included a sensory audit of learning spaces across the campus.
Supported by a fund for students with disabilities announced by The Minister for Further and Higher Education, the Library of Trinity College Dublin continued its close collaboration with The Disability Service and student groups to create over ten sensory spaces across its estate. Each space caters to different sensory preferences in terms of room size, noise, light, seating and visual stimuli.
This paper will discuss the key findings from the research and how they informed the selection of furniture, equipment and importantly, a new approach to design thinking. It will present an evaluation of the TCD-Sense project and describe further initiatives in universal design aimed at meeting the needs of future generations of students.