History of CLAUD

What’s in a name?

The meaning of the name CLAUD has changed over time.  In 2002, Project Claudine referred to the “Consortium of librarians in higher education networking to improve library access for users with disabilities in South and Southwest England”.  This was later simplified to “Creating Libraries Accessible to Users with Disabilities” or “CLAUD”. The group’s focus later shifted to providing more accessible and inclusive libraries for everyone.  In time, we dropped the acronym but kept the familiar name.

Development and challenges

CLAUD began informally in 1996 as a grassroots meeting of librarians with an interest in accessibility. The network included librarians from what would become its four founding members, Southampton, Exeter, Plymouth and Bristol. This led to the creation of the first assistive technology service at Southampton.  CLAUD then grew to include over 20 higher education institutions.  It now stretches from Falmouth in the West to Sussex in the East, and from Portsmouth in the South to Gloucester and Reading further North.

The initial intention was to keep the group regional, so that it would be easier for all the members to meet at one another’s libraries.  Gradually the region expanded as more libraries wanted to join.  Still others were inspired by the early residential conferences to create new groups in other regions.

A two-day conference soon became part of the calendar and these were open to all.  They encouraged networking between libraries, while meetings were held each Winter and Spring exclusively for members of the consortium. The conference was residential, and early members still remember the work that went into them!  The recession brought funding and staffing shortages. As a result, the model changed to a series of two study days each year.  These have since gone from strength to strength, providing excellent training and networking opportunities. 

Every member organisation can send up to three staff members to each study day, which comprise talks, workshops and library tours.  Students and academics have offered professional and personal insights into the challenges disabled people face, while members have tried out assistive technologies, explored the impact of visual impairments and neurological diversity on perception, and learned basic sign language.

Research, publications and other contributions to the wider profession

CLAUD securedHEFCE funding to employ two people to work on Project Claudine. The project resulted in the 2002 publication of Recommendations to improve accessibility for disabled users in academic libraries by Sandra Jones.

CLAUD contributed to the Masters degree in librarianship in Bristol, at what is now at the University of Western England.  We helped embed accessibility considerations into all aspects of their course. 

CLAUD still provides bursaries to fund any student dissertation on a subject related to accessibility and inclusion.  The funded student also gets to present their findings to our members – an excellent opportunity to impress prospective employers! 

CLAUD members contributed to the revised SCONUL guidance on improving library accessibility, published in 2012 as Access for library users with disabilities.

CLAUD also contributes to government consultations and considers the implications of legislation. Members discuss common problems with communications, funding and service provision.  We also consider the impact and opportunities of the increasing pace of technological innovation, disruptive change and innovation.

What next?

As libraries enter yet another time of great uncertainty, CLAUD is committed to helping our members make the most of scarce resources and find innovative ways to become more accessible and inclusive.

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