Culture of Welcoming
Library Services for Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Arriving in a new country with a different culture and language confronts all refugees with a challenge. To make their arrival easier, libraries in Germany offer many different services and so contribute to a culture of welcoming.
“Coming to Leipzig”, “Someone is on the Move”, “Overcoming Strangeness”, “Dialogue in German, “With Open Arms” – in many federal states more and more libraries want to ease the settling in of refugees and aylum seekers with special services. In these activities, libraries usually cooperate with civic initiatives. Libraries provide primarily their media expertise, but beyond that the encounter between people and contact with locals facilitate getting to know the new surroundings.
Knowledge and encounterIn their media services libraries have been able to draw on the holdings acquired in recent decades for “guest workers” and immigrants. With the aid of project funding and donations many libraries have been brought up to date these stocks and made them available to refugee and asylum seekers. Libraries also seek to reach people directly where they live – for example, the Bremen City Library with media boxes or the Erlangen City Library with language promotion kits. In special library tours, library staff at the Duisburg City Library and the “Asylotheque” in Grassau in Upper Bavaria introduce users to the multilingual offerings. An important focus of the libraries’ welcome services lies on media for children and young people. This target group is also in the forefront of encounter offerings: libraries in Cologne offer sponsorship and mentor programmes for extracurricular work with refugee children. Municipal libraries in other cities organize mentors for families as part of the welcoming initiative, and under the title of “Coming to Leipzig” the Leipzig City Library trains sponsors for refugees and asylum seekers.
The creative project “Someone is on the Move” of the Magdeburg City Library gave refugee children the opportunity to tell about and present their homelands. The workshop for young people at the International Youth Library in Munich, “Overcoming Strangeness”, offered Germans and refugees and asylum seekers the opportunity for creative exchange.