12 Jun 2024

Western and Munster Regional Sections of the Library Association of Ireland Joint Annual Seminar 2024 ‘EDI in the Library’


Guest post by Tina Stagliano, MLIS, Electronic Resource Content Manager at Novartis

Last week, a unique gathering unfolded in the halls of the TUS Moylish Campus. This was the Western Regional Section's first in-person event since 2019, and it marked a significant milestone for the Munster Regional Section as their inaugural event since reforming in 2023. The Western and Munster Regional Sections of the LAI came together in person to reunite friends and old colleagues all with the same goal, to learn how to implement Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in their library.

Before settling into a day of learning, we had the chance to enjoy some refreshments while networking and catching up with friends. Having only moved to Limerick from Dublin myself a few years ago during pandemic lockdowns, I was especially delighted to finally have the chance to meet and socialise with other librarians from my new city and region. Working from home full-time has made it difficult to make these invaluable connections with my peers and I know I am not the only one who cherished this time.


Registration for the seminar at TUS Moylish.

The first speaker of the day was Marian Duggan, VP for People, Culture & EDI in TUS. Marian’s presentation, titled “EDI in the Library,” stressed the importance of her role and that of TUS itself in providing equal opportunity for all students. The library at TUS provides support to EDI endeavors by promoting awareness and providing books and other resources as needed for various events, such as International Women’s Day.

 Marian also explained how TUS has taken steps towards EDI that reach beyond those mandated by Irish Law. Currently, there are nine grounds in inclusion legislation (gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community) but TUS has expanded this to include two further grounds – socioeconomic background and membership of the Roma community.

The challenging work of Marian and the EDI team has already paid off, as TUS has just been named the EU Newcomer Gender Equality Champion for 2024 – an award presented to the university for their efforts to advance gender equality in education and research.

The next speaker was Nicola Beagan, Adult Dyslexia Coordinator with the Dyslexia Association of Ireland who gave a talk titled “Dyslexia Awareness.” Nicola provided an overview of dyslexia itself and then discussed how a library, or any space, can make minor changes to be more inclusive to those with dyslexia.

 First, Nicola began by emphasizing that dyslexia is a "learning difference" rather than a disability and is hereditary and lifelong. While it can affect working memory, long-term memory or both, individuals with dyslexia can manage their symptoms effectively with the right support. 

 Libraries can play a crucial role in supporting dyslexic individuals by providing audio recordings when possible, giving them extra time when checking out materials and using more visuals in the library such as videos, maps and infographics. Interestingly, individuals with dyslexia are often strong innovators and can contribute significantly to library layout and design. 

 Nicola also mentioned that there are several ways to improve signage around the library to be more dyslexia friendly. For example, use easy to read fonts such as Arial and Verdana, add more space between lines of text and place text on blocks of colour to give more contrast. Also, avoid using justified alignment on blocks of text as it can create extra white space on the page.  


Nicola Beagan, Dyslexia Association of Ireland.

After a break for lunch, the seminar continued with Elizabeth Kirwan, Assistant Keeper in the Department of Special Collections in the National Library of Ireland (NLI). Elizabeth presented “EEDI in the National Library of Ireland (NLI)” and explained the NLI's Diversity & Inclusion Policy. She noted that the policy was developed after a collaborative forum and was recently revised to stress the importance of diversity. The NLI represents a changing Ireland and is committed to ensuring that all voices are heard. For example, when the NLI was founded in 1877, it was illegal to be openly gay in Ireland and the library did not collect materials that represented LGBTQ+ voices. Now, the NLI proudly promotes their Irish Queer Archive, with materials dating back to 1951.

 The NLI's commitment to EEDI is evident in its strategic plan for 2022 – 2026, which includes working with the Irish Centre for Diversity to achieve the Investors in Diversity Silver standing. To achieve this standing, the NLI has conducted various trainings for staff, including addressing unconscious bias, bullying, being active bystanders and by promoting the use of JAM cards in their library. 

Erica Meslin, Education Manager of AHEAD Ireland, led the final discussion on Universal Design (UD). Her presentation was titled “UD-ing the Library Service” and  she explained that UD is the design of buildings, products, or services mindfully created for access, understanding, and use, regardless of an individual’s background. AHEAD names four strategic pillars to keep in mind when creating such an environment for students, which are:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Supports, services and social engagement
  • Physical environment
  • Digital environment 

AHEAD is also acting as Lead National Collaborator of a new initiative called the Altitude Charter, which involves the implementation of UD in institutes of further and higher education.

 The seminar concluded with a tour of the TUS Library, which gave us the chance to further share ideas on creating an inclusive library space for all users. It was interesting to learn that the university had recently remodeled their library to create an inviting entryway which includes a lowered circulation desk, making it easily accessible to wheelchair users.


Recently refurbished Circulation Desk at TUS Moylish Campus Library.

View of the refurbished TUS Moylish Campus Library.

Overall, the seminar was a powerful reminder of the role libraries can play in promoting diversity and inclusion. It underscored the importance of creating spaces where everyone feels welcome and can access resources without barriers. Unofficially, the seminar served as a much needed in person CPD gathering for all. The event was a tremendous success and I look forward to the next one.

 For the Western Regional Section of the Library Association of Ireland’s full report on the seminar, please visit: https://wrslai.wordpress.com/





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