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Southampton City Libraries awarded ‘Library of Sanctuary’ 

Southampton City Council’s Libraries are delighted to become only the third library service in the country to be awarded the Library of Sanctuary title, and the first in the City of Sanctuary South West Region. 

The announcement coincides with Libraries Week 5-10 October which is an annual celebration of the invaluable role libraries play in bringing reading, information, learning and computer access to our communities. 

The ‘Libraries of Sanctuary’ initiative was set-up to recognise the important role libraries can also play in providing a safe and welcoming space for people seeking sanctuary and for other new arrivals in our communities.

City of Sanctuary UK oversees the scheme, which support a national network promoting understanding, recognition and celebration of the ways in which people seeking sanctuary enrich our society.

Working towards the award, library staff received Refugee, Asylum Seeker and Migrant training to ensure sanctuary seekers feel welcome in our libraries and staff have a greater understanding of their needs. Other activities have included working with partners such as the CLEAR Project who provide help and support to sanctuary seekers. Together we provided introductory tours of libraries, devised a special library membership and introduced a successful reading project which celebrated the reading achievements of sanctuary seekers and other learners.  

The Council’s Library Service also secured National Lottery funding to establish a language café, working alongside Southampton & Winchester Visitors Group, which befriends sanctuary seekers and are working towards a launch for this in-line with government guidelines.

A dedicated information point with leaflets and information sources is available in Central Library, containing books written by and about sanctuary seekers for everyone to read. 

Councillor Satvir Kaur, Cabinet Member for Homes and Culture, said:

“Our libraries are at the heart of many of our communities. I’m absolutely thrilled that Southampton’s fantastic library team, working in partnership, have secured the prestigious Library of Sanctuary award.  Southampton’s strength is in its diversity, being a welcoming port city for centuries. Now as a City of Sanctuary, it’s great our local libraries can join and complement the work already done by our schools, universities, and many community organisations.”   

Regional City of Sanctuary Coordinator, Nikki Walters, said:

“I am very pleased to confirm that Southampton City Libraries has achieved the Library of Sanctuary award. They have shown a great commitment to providing a safe and welcoming place for people seeking sanctuary, and working with local charities supporting refugees and asylum seekers. They are the first library authority in the area to receive the award and I am thrilled to be working with them going forward. It is a great pleasure that this award coincides with Libraries Week.” 

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