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Libraries Week x Meet our Members – Welcoming New Arrivals

Category: Blog, Libraries Week, Meet our Members

The regular Meet our Members blog you know and love is enjoying a Libraries Week special edition in which we’re learning more about how our dynamic and diverse CILIPS membership base is Taking Action, #Changing Lives.

The Libraries Week 2021 logo, showing a group of young people celebrating while waving flags and the caption 'Taking action, changing lives'

Today, John Vincent, coordinator of The Network – tackling social exclusion in libraries, museums, archives and galleries shares his insights into what our nation’s libraries are doing to welcome new arrivals – and how you can play your part. Thank you John!

Welcoming New Arrivals

As part of Libraries Week 2021, CILIPS are celebrating the role that libraries play ‘as drivers for inclusion, sustainability, social mobility and cohesion’. A big part of this role involves offering a welcome, especially to people who may not feel that welcome elsewhere – particularly new arrivals. (By ‘new arrivals’, we are including, for example: refugees; people seeking asylum; migrant workers; international students; unaccompanied asylum-seeking children; people arriving in the UK for family reunion.)

We know that there are barriers – getting here, gaining leave to remain, overcoming hostility and racism, grappling with the hostile environment, to name but a few – yet, despite these, the UK does welcome new arrivals, and Scotland has a strong record of doing this; as Gary Christie and Helen Baillot say:

‘Scotland has a long history of welcoming those fleeing conflict and persecution. Those fleeing conflicts in Vietnam, Kosovo, Bosnia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have all built new lives in Scotland in recent decades.’ (The impact of COVID-19 on refugees and refugee-assisting organisations in Scotland, 2020, p4)

The Libraries of Sanctuary resource pack is essential reading for everyone interested in the warm, inclusive welcome that libraries provide, including inspiring case studies and how your service can get involved.

Libraries play their part too. For example, they:

  • Provide a warm welcome (staff are welcoming, there are ‘welcome’ posters in different languages)
  • Signpost people to local services and help them settle into a new area (support/work with walking tours to introduce new arrivals to their area)
  • Provide access to email and the internet
  • Provide a range of books & other resources
  • Provide space for people to meet (and for classes such as ESOL to take place)
  • Provide a safe space.

In recognition of the role that public libraries play, a growing number have been awarded Library of Sanctuary status by the City of Sanctuary movement, including recently Bolton, Kirklees, Manchester, Newcastle, and Oldham – and there are more in the pipeline. In Scotland, Aberdeen, East Lothian, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Forth Valley already have City of Sanctuary groups.

Visit the Libraries of Sanctuary website to download the resource pack and learn more about how your library service can get involved #ChangingLives

To find out more:

John has been commissioned by Facet Publishing to write the first in a new series looking at libraries and social justice. This first title will be Libraries and Sanctuary: supporting refugees and other new arrivals, and he is looking for examples of how all kinds of libraries and knowledge & information services have offered a welcome to and services that are targeted towards ‘new arrivals’ with both recently and historical examples welcome. There is a considerable amount written about public libraries’ work with refugees and other new arrivals since the 1960s – are there parallels for other sectors? Little appears to show up via literature searches … The book will focus primarily on refugees and people seeking asylum, but will also include other migrants – and John is particularly interested in provision for people who have been affected by the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ policies since the mid-2000s.

Thank you very much to John for highlighting what libraries do to welcome all and create much-needed spaces of inclusion, safety and security. Keen to learn more or see your library service involved? You know what to do! Download the resource pack, join the mailing list and please do get in touch with John if you have examples to share of that library warm welcome in action.

Stay tuned for a Libraries of Sanctuary CILIPS Online Learning special coming in 2022…

The Libraries Week graphic with text reading 'Taking action, changing lives' in front of a screenshot from the Library of Sanctuary resource pack, showing people embracing and children holding up crafts

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