Needs, reads and possibilities in a suburban library in a multicultural setting

ATLESTAM, Ingrid and MYHRE, Randi (2014) Needs, reads and possibilities in a suburban library in a multicultural setting. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2014 - Lyon - Libraries, Citizens, Societies: Confluence for Knowledge in Session 221 - Library Services to Multicultural Populations. In: IFLA WLIC 2014, 16-22 August 2014, Lyon, France.

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Language: English (Original)
Available under licence Creative Commons Attribution.


Needs, reads and possibilities in a suburban library in a multicultural setting

Public libraries in multicultural suburbs face immense challenges. The library should provide equal access to all kinds and forms of information in our modern multicultural and multilingual society. It should be a universal, public, social, neutral and welcoming space for every patron, and a unique resource for self-development, promoting personal careers as well as human relations. But how do you realise all this in your everyday library work? With our paper we would like to share our experience, describe methods and put forward ideas about the role and possibilities of a suburban library, taking Biskopsgården Library in Göteborg, Sweden, as our starting point. We will also include some of the knowledge gained from our editorial work on the book “Det mångspråkiga biblioteket – en nödvändig utopi” (BTJ Förlag, 2012) (“The multilingual library – a necessary utopia”) Biskopsgården is a multicultural city district that has been targeted by Swedish media and public debate because of severe social problems which have lead to gang conflicts and many shootings. The public library in Biskopsgården is a natural partner in a lot of the positive initiatives taking place aiming to change the city district as well as the public image of it. Our paper will highlight successful methods like language cafés, computer courses, cultural events, study assistance and homework support. We will especially highlight the library as a democratic arena, the importance of openness and network activism and the amazing possibilities that an involved and creative friendship association may present. The aim of the paper is to highlight the original educational task of the public library – to offer access to knowledge and participation in social progress for all, irrespectively of their ethnic or educational background. A hundred years ago it was about the domestic working class population with a low education, whereas today it is also about the newly arrived migrants and refugees who need to acquire a new language and other tools to be able to take active part in society.

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