Portsmouth City Council’s library and archive service has been given a national ‘Library Service of Sanctuary’ award in recognition of its work welcoming refugees.

To achieve this status, all library staff received training in welcoming refugees and co-producing services during national Refugee Week.

Members of the library outreach team have also visited groups of asylum seekers in the community to understand their needs and share the benefits of a library membership.

Cllr Steve Pitt, Leader of Portsmouth City Council, said:

“It’s brilliant to see our libraries acknowledged as safe places for people seeking refuge. Public libraries are often the pillars of a community, and act as a friendly space for anyone who needs it, regardless of background. Congratulations to all the library staff who are very deserving of this award.”

The Library of Sanctuary award celebrates communities who go above and beyond to show solidarity and give a warm welcome to those who need it most.

Denise Callender, Trustee from Portsmouth City of Sanctuary, said:

“Portsmouth City of Sanctuary and 432 No Mads have built a close working relationship with Portsmouth Libraries and we are so pleased about their award. They have given our sanctuary-seeking community a guiding hand to develop new skills and really call Portsmouth ‘home’. It’s the only place they can visit to get free internet access, connecting them to missed relatives and friends, as well as having access to so many resources. We are very grateful to the friendly staff at the libraries who ensure community inclusion, making the asylum seeker and refugee experience safe and enriching.”

The library service is holding a special event to celebrate this award at Southsea Library on Tuesday 30 January, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. In a programme put together by 432 No Mads, the evening will be filled with performances by talented local migrant artists, featuring poets, dancers, and rappers. Free food will be prepared by Taste of Home. Free tickets can be found on Eventbrite.