How Libraries Help Refugees

A mural being painted on the front of a library building

I recently wrote a blog post about how libraries benefit communities. In the post, I mentioned libraries' ability to support people who have English as an additional language. I have experienced this first-hand in recent months, as Syrian families arrived in the community in which my library is based. My library is one of many throughout the country that is supporting refugees who are making Scotland their home. It is providing them with a safe and welcoming environment away from the horrors they have experienced and is helping them become a part of a new community, experience a different culture and learn a new language.

Visits to the library can offer opportunities to meet other members of the community and become involved in cultural and recreational activities

Libraries are providing space for parents to attend English lessons with a tutor, often arranged in conjunction with the authority’s education and resettlement officers, and for their children to meet and play with other children from the local area. With many community events taking place in libraries, visits to the library offer opportunities to meet other members of the community and become involved in cultural and recreational activities, giving a sense of belonging. Families can borrow books and films, in English or dual-language, to help improve their own learning and for recreational use. A popular dual-language book in my library is The Gruffalo in Arabic and Doric.

Regular visits to the library can also improve mental wellbeing; with their experiences of war and danger, many refugees are suffering from trauma. This may be alleviated by the peace and comfort offered by the library. As well as providing a calming space, my library service runs a Reading Well programme, where helpful books that offer advice for coping with mental health issues can be prescribed by health professionals.

Supporting and welcoming refugees to our country is important now more than ever, and the role of libraries in this remains vital. Our gifts from libraries are the emotions of empathy and humanity we have gained from reading – now is the time to use them. 

Jennifer is a regular contributor to Scottish Book Trust's website - have a look at her blog posts outlining the benefits of school libraries and public libraries. She has also written a fabulous resource to help teachers and librarians discuss the books of Patrick Ness - check it out here.

Read our other blogs about public libraries. where you can find out about fabulous library resources and projects as well as advocacy pieces outlining the importance of libraries to their communities.

Jennifer Horan

Jennifer Horan is a Network Librarian in the Kemnay and Kintore area. She works in school and public libraries and is a judge for the 2016/17 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals. She has created a set of inspiring learning resources to explore Patrick Ness's novels for our site - you can find them here, in our resources section.