Supporting refugees – what can libraries do in relation to Ukraine?

Here are some starters:

  • Find out what is happening locally/regionally, and how you and your library service might help. Is there a local City of Sanctuary group? Or a School of Sanctuary where the students will be involved in welcoming new arrivals? Is your local authority part of the City of Sanctuary Local Authority Network? See City of Sanctuary website for more info on all these groups and streams.
  • … and make sure that you get your news from reputable sources. City of Sanctuary suggest: alongside the main UK news orgs, follow Ukrainian English-language outlets The Kyiv Independent and The New Voice of Ukraine, or Ukraine-based journalists: Olga Tokariuk, Christopher Miller, Nika Melkozerova, Illia Ponomarenko
  • Academic libraries are starting to pool information in a Google doc about what they are doing to support people arriving from Ukraine
  • There is already clear evidence of racism towards some new arrivals to the UK, and the war in Ukraine is being used to further this – for example by arguing that Ukrainians are “our sort of people” and are “deserving” refugees. Make sure that any information you provide, displays you put on, exhibitions, etc show a welcome for all new arrivals and reflect an anti-racist stance.
  • As Ukrainian refugees arrive in the UK, we can be part of the broader welcome. This can include:
    • Libraries Connected have put together two leaflets – one in English and the other in Ukrainian – which libraries can print off to help anyone wanting to find out about what libraries offer and how they signpost to other public services. They are available as pdfs or webpages from the Libraries Connected website.
    • Supply books and other library materials in Ukrainian and Russian – for example, Plymouth Libraries has available a small selection of e-books in Ukrainian.
    • Familiarise ourselves with the Government’s guide to starting life in the UK, Welcome! A guide for Ukrainians arriving in the UK
    • Ensuring that we are ‘plugged in’ to local networks and across the local authority, so we can keep up-to-date with who is arriving, numbers, where they are going to be housed, etc
    • Making sustained efforts to bring people from new arrival communities into libraries
    • Displaying welcome posters and signs in multiple languages and/or City of Sanctuary welcome stickers
    • Ensuring that resources relevant to individual needs, cultures, age and experience are available in the library
    • Ensuring that joining the library is made as straightforward as possible
    • Organising tours of the library and help with joining
    • Outreach work to welcome new arrivals
    • Ensuring that there is a stock of library materials to support ESOL
    • Ensure that there is a stock of library materials to support children and young people learning and maintaining English as a spoken and/or written language
    • Cultural activities – invite and welcome new arrivals
    • Promote services such as online access/IT, online newspapers
    • Organising a foodbank donation point in the library
    • Organising collections of other items, eg baby clothes, pushchairs, cribs, blankets and nappies
    • Provision of free sanitary products to support the community in combating period poverty
    • Providing/promoting space in the library for ESOL and other classes, and for meeting spaces for new arrivals
    • Social Europe has a new column, “How to welcome Ukrainian refugees”, which looks particularly at the welcome given and integration in Sweden
  • There is an increasing number of other resources to support Ukrainian new arrivals, including:

Updated 20 July 2022

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