Kirklees Libraries becomes the first library service in the Yorkshire and Humber region to receive a prestigious national Library of Sanctuary Award.
Run by City of Sanctuary UK who works in partnership with major refugee organisations, the Library of Sanctuary Awards recognise the work of library services that provide a welcome and safe space for people fleeing conflict, changing climates and persecution.
Kirklees Libraries has led the way in providing a welcoming space for migrant communities by curating a Sanctuary book collection that highlights books written by and about sanctuary seekers. Knit and natter sessions, chats over coffee, conversation cafes and dedicated resource packs have supported language development across all ages for people who do not speak English as a first language.
A wide range of activities are also available that promote inclusion and diversity and the team is actively involved in national events such as Windrush Day, Black History Month and Interfaith Week.
Carol Stump, Chief Librarian and President of Libraries Connected said: “Gaining the Libraries of Sanctuary award is a huge achievement for our staff, and I’m extremely proud of the team who have worked with a range of partners and organisations to ensure sanctuary seekers receive the welcome and support they need across Kirklees.
“The positive feedback we’ve had from the assessment panel and sanctuary seekers themselves demonstrates the difference that this has made to people’s lives, and I’m absolutely delighted that we are one of the first authorities in the country, and the first in our region, to receive this award.”
Kirklees Libraries was also one of the first library services to remove fines for overdue items and the requirement for ID to join a library for all customers. Materials were produced in different languages to make services more accessible for everyone including migrant communities.
Library introductory tours and offers of bus passes enabled sanctuary seekers to become volunteers at their local library. All these measures helped refugees to integrate into the local community and strengthened the bid for the Library of Sanctuary award.
Councillor Paul Davies, Cabinet Member for Corporate said: “Fleeing violence and conflict can have a devastating impact on people’s lives. I am therefore delighted that Kirklees Libraries have achieved Library of Sanctuary status in recognition of their ongoing work to support refugees and asylum seekers to integrate into our communities.
“We join a small number of library services across the country that are providing much-needed sanctuary to people joining our towns and cities in what can be very difficult circumstances. Many congratulations to the team.”
The City of Sanctuary network began in October 2005 in Sheffield. Since then, they have supported the development of over 115 City of Sanctuary initiatives in towns and cities across the UK and Ireland.
The Libraries of Sanctuary is an initiative to recognise the good practice of libraries that welcome people seeking sanctuary and other new arrivals into their community and seek to foster a culture of welcome and inclusivity.
Sanctuary awards are provided by the network of local groups and City of Sanctuary UK to recognise and celebrate mainstream organisations’ commitment to their values and vision of welcome and inclusivity and enabling them to become active participants in the City of Sanctuary network. It is an opportunity to celebrate and share good practise as well as reflect on how practice can be improved.
Feature image by Xiaoxia Xu via Unsplash.