A Space for Everyone

outside the group study room
April 15, 2019

Library converts two of its study rooms into sensory-friendly rooms

“it is a relief the community of people with these needs, including myself, are being heard and thought of.”

You might notice two study rooms on the 4th floor in the Kathryn Martin Library that aren’t like the others, but what makes them different than the other 19 study rooms?  These two study spaces are sensory-friendly. In these two spaces students can study a bit differently or use the space to simply find inner calm.

The idea for the Martin Library’s sensory rooms came from UMD Student Madalina Kelner. She explained, “I have sensory issues myself so I was looking for a place on campus that is quiet and has a warm feeling.” The library seemed like a natural location for sensory space. Kelner brought the idea forward to  library staff member Tess Linval, who also serves on the Commission for Disabilities and is passionate about making spaces sensory friendly, and Library Director Matt Rosendahl. Linval investigated the use of sensory spaces in libraries across the country. Last fall the Multicultural Center implemented a sensory friendly space, but outside of the MCC there wasn’t anything else on campus.  

Why is sensory space important?

Sensory spaces promote calm, focus and innovation, and the Library’s spaces are geared toward everyone.  While the Library does have two designated quiet floors, there are times when a different quiet environment is needed. Kelner mentioned that “it is hard to find a space that is beautiful and has good lighting that is not loud and distracting”  Students do not need to study to use the sensory rooms - those who might deal with anxiety or have issues with sensory overload can also find calm and quiet in the sensory spaces.

What next?

Based on feedback from room users, these modifications in the library are appreciated.

One of the rooms does have windows, and both rooms have manual light switches (versus the previous motion switch). Each room is equipped with an exercise ball, balance disc and weighted lap pad.  Exercise balls and balance discs help with focus, balance, posture, and core strength, while the weighted lap pad provides deep-touch pressure and can have a calming effect and improve focus. The Library is exploring other sensory items and room modifications.

Kelner said she is grateful and excited that the library implemented the sensory rooms and added that “it is a relief the community of people with these needs, including myself, are being heard and thought of.”