A Library for the Ages: Revamping the Physical and Virtual Environment

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Academic libraries have focused on identifying and meeting the needs of their students. At Weill Cornell, we designed orientation activities keeping millennial characteristics in mind and we devote energy to reaching these users. Most of our library users are not millennials, but baby boomers or beyond. We are using our strategic plan as guidance in creating a phased plan for the usage of our space, and we must consider senior users. They have different physical requirements and tolerance, and we must address those needs. In considering our physical space, we are drawing from institutional expertise in environmental geriatrics. Environmental geriatrics is the study and application of design principles to interiors and products to optimize the health, function, and well-being of older adults. The Medical College offers a multimedia tutorial to experience the effect of visual impairments, such as macular degeneration or glaucoma, while, for example, descending stairs. Specifically we will examine remediable environmental hazards that increase risk of accidents and injuries. Attention to accessibility extends beyond physical space and into virtual ones, specifically the Library's website. For its upcoming redesign, the web management group will adhere to best practices in designing an accessible site which is easy-to-use for older adults and still appeals to students. Our usability testing in summer 2007 of a new e-journal page will include a spectrum of users from millennials to baby boomers and beyond. Our experiences in applying tenets of environmental geriatrics to our library may be applicable to all types of libraries.
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environmental geriatrics; usability; library; web design
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