In an effort to make the space more inclusive, the Chapel Hill Public Library is launching an initiative that offers nature-themed, sensory-friendly resources to the community.
The initiative, called "Neurodiversity and Nature," is catered toward children and adults with diverse cognitive needs, including sensory processing differences, dementia and memory loss, ADHD, intellectual or developmental disabilities and autism.
The library is adding sensory-friendly furniture, nature-themed sensory kits and a garden trail to their space.
The sensory-friendly furniture, including giant bean bags, hanging chairs, papasan chairs and wobble stools, were added in February, according to a press release from the Town of Chapel Hill. Nature-themed sensory kits for kids will be added in late March and nature-themed sensory kits for adults will be added in April 2023.
The library's initiative was funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as a part of the federal Library Services and Technology Act.
Laura Brown, experience manager for the library, said the Chapel Hill Public Library also received feedback from the Autism Society of North Carolina while implementing the initiative.
“Neurodiversity is an asset to our community,” Krystal Black, youth and family outreach coordinator, said in a Town press release. “We took great care in developing the pieces of this initiative, working with community partners in the neurodiverse space. Leveraging our location in Pritchard Park and the success of the Explore More NC initiative, most components will have a nature theme, highlighting the comforting, multi-sensory experiences it provides.”
Madison Bolls, a senior program officer at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, said sensory spaces have become popular for serving neurodiverse people with extra sensory needs. Bolls said sensory spaces help people focus on different types of brain functions.
She said these spaces can have resources, as small as fidget spinners, and objects that light up and make noises to engage the senses.