Improving accessibility and inclusivity at the British Library

Service & Experience Design
Vision & Purpose

Client : British Library

The challenge

The British Library’s mission is to make their intellectual heritage accessible to everyone, for research, inspiration, and enjoyment. As part of expansion plans for the London St Pancras site and a new city centre location in Leeds, they want to improve accessibility and inclusivity. They tasked us to research accessibility at St Pancras and provide practical recommendations for becoming more accessible and welcoming in future, while meeting statutory requirements.

The approach

Our approach was to uncover evidence and insights to inform our recommendations. This involved working closely with or associate accessibility expert and in-depth library-user research, with observations and interviews conducted throughout the site over several days.

The research

British Library staff proved to be very motivated. They were already providing an inclusive visitor experience through initiatives such as prayer rooms, wheelchair loan and large print guides. We used desk research to help us understand their existing accessibility and inclusion strategies, and to establish first principles and best practice in this area. This informed 2 audit visits, to record findings and analyse them against policy and legal access requirements for public buildings. We also sought to understand lived experience of real visitors in real time. We used a mixture of visitor shadowing, interviews, and auto-ethnography, with visitors keeping diaries of their visits, to reveal the barriers they encountered. This uncovered many opportunities for improvement and generated understanding and enthusiasm to do more among the Library’s already committed and passionate staff.  Because we were forensic and through in our approach, we were able to able to support the Library with very detailed customer journey maps and service blueprints and make specific recommendations.

The impact

  • Signage and mapping

    new improved recommendations for wayfinding and customer journeys are ready to implement

  • Awareness raised

    understanding of visitors’ accessibility needs has improved across all staff, from retail and estates, to catering and security

  • Co-creation

    a new ambition to co-create access solutions, working together with visitors in future plus a community of visitors keen to stay involved and collaborate

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