Brighton & Hove Libraries have become only the second service in the country to be awarded Library of Sanctuary status, the announcement coinciding with this year’s Refugee Week.
To mark the week the libraries are holding online events for all ages, including a flash fiction writing competition, national reading group day book discussion, recommended reads, themed storytime sessions and family crafts.
The Libraries of Sanctuary initiative was set up to recognise good practice of libraries which welcome people seeking sanctuary and other new arrivals into their community and seek to foster a culture of welcome and inclusivity.
It’s overseen by City of Sanctuary UK, which supports a nationwide network to build a culture of welcome for people seeking sanctuary and to promote understanding, recognition and celebration of the ways in which people seeking sanctuary enrich society.
The review panel was unanimous in deciding Brighton & Hove’s library service fully met the conditions for the sanctuary award following the application made in December.
The work at Jubilee Library features in City of Sanctuary’s new resource pack for Libraries of Sanctuary and will be shared with other library services across the country.
In working towards becoming a Library of Sanctuary, all library staff completed Refugee, Asylum Seekers and Migrant Awareness training to ensure sanctuary seekers feel welcome in the libraries and staff have a greater understanding of their needs.
Jubilee Library greets visitors with a ‘welcome window’ in different languages and the collection of books about and by sanctuary seekers has been expanded for all to enjoy, alongside new services such as the conversation café for women wanting to improve their English.
The Network of International Women has made a Library of Sanctuary banner for the library. Women from the group also volunteer to deliver multilingual story times and put together displays and supporting material.
This has proved invaluable to both them and the library service. There has been a significant cultural exchange with staff and volunteers through the scheme with volunteers bringing in traditional dishes from Iraq, Yemen, Morocco and Egypt to share with staff.
The library team work in close partnership with organisations in the city supporting sanctuary seekers and staff have donated toiletries for new arrivals in the city.
Councillor Carmen Appich, chair of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities & Culture Committee, said: “It’s great news that we’ve achieved Library of Sanctuary status. The award further demonstrates our commitment to offering sanctuary to refugees and asylum seekers in the city.
“Everything being done gives a very important message that we are a diverse, welcoming community and all have valuable skills to offer.
“It’s a timely achievement. As well as Refugee Week, it chimes with the Black Lives Matter movement and our new commitment to amplify our actions to become an anti-racist council.
“We’ve done a lot to make our library service welcoming to all seeking sanctuary, but we know there is still lot of work to do.
“Across all council services, we are committed to ensuring opportunities are open to all and everyone gets to live a full life free from discrimination and harm.”
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