Stanly County Public Library opens multi-colored sensory lab

Families and individuals of all ages came out to the Stanly County Public Library in Albemarle on Friday for the open house of its new sensory lab, which featured a dazzling display of items such as fiber optic lights, liquid floor tiles and vecta machines.

With the lights turned off, the lab presented a crafted environment that supports a calming and engaging environment for neuro-diverse individuals to explore and relax, said Ashley Wilson, the library’s public services manager, who came up with the idea. She applied for a roughly $15,000 Bright Ideas grant last year through the State Library of North Carolina.

Neuro-diverse is a “more inclusive term” that can cover a wide-ranging group of people with intellectual disabilities including those with autism spectrum disorder, she said. The terminology allows everyone to be “under the same umbrella of celebration.”

With the library offering story time for neuro-diverse patrons each week, Wilson, who has experience working with children with autism, wanted to find another way to engage with the population.

The specific components of the lab include two Vecta Delight Mobile Sensory Stations equipped with multiple sensory devices such as lights and colored bubble tubes along with fiber optic tails, a fiber optic carpet, liquid floor tiles, weighted puppies and weighted medicine balls.

“It’s not necessarily sensory input, it’s more like sensory reduction,” she said.

The multi-sensory Vecta machine features water bubbles and fiber optic tails.

Multi-colored fiber optic tails are shown in the sensory lab.

Lab times will be offered at the library from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Aug. 30 (for adults), Sept. 6 (for children), Sept. 13 (for adults) and Sept. 20 (for children).

Wilson said the sensory lab is open to anyone who wants to better understand how the equipment impacts the perceptual, neural and behavioral aspects of oneself.

“As humans, it’s so easy for us to disconnect ourselves from joy and from play,” she said. “We’re never too old to play.”

The Bright Ideas grant is made possible by funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.