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Pipeline Column
Due Jan. 25, 2016
Internet @ Schools - CIL Mar. 2016 Issue
Serving Special Populations and Making a Difference: Refugees
by Stephen Abram
This column is a bit of an indulgence since it sits at the overlapping personal
interests of my life – libraries, charity and a passion for making a difference. But
then, I know this mix is pretty typical of our profession.
Some background: In Canada we committed to take in over 25,000 refugees in
just a few short months at the end of 2015 and early 2016. Most of these
refugees are families and have been living (with millions of others) for years in
camps or desperately engaging in perilous sea travel. Too many have perished
in this way and your heart cannot help but break just by seeing the news photos.
So what is to be done? As an individual you’re overwhelmed by enormity of it all.
How can I possibly make a difference? What can I personally do?
My wife’s neighbourhood book club had just such a conversation. One of the
women in the group had sponsored a family to Canada during the refugee crisis
in Rwanda. They determined to sponsor an individual but he arrived at the
airport with 8 orphans in tow that he couldn’t leave behind - and what the hill-o-
beans – they took them all on. This was decades ago and that ‘family’ has
successfully integrated into our society and contributes gratefully to Canada. It’s
one of the success stories that inspired our group. They immediately determined
that research was needed and they set the goal to sponsor a family in the group
sponsorship class. (The Canadian government directly sponsors thousands of
refugees as part of our international commitments. In Canada, you can also
sponsor refugees as an individual or a group or in the family class.)
So, our ragged troupe set out to figure all this out. Now 4-5 months later we’re all
set to accept our family. We needed to raise $40,000 to cover the costs in
Toronto for one year, find housing, and household goods, and much more. We’ve
all been through our required police checks and taken the required church or
government sponsored refugee training. By the time this article comes out we
hope to have met our family (one of 25,000+ this year alone)!
This was the easy part. We made personal financial commitments, ran
fundraisers and sold friends and colleagues on donating. That was also easy –
Canadian culture is pluralistic, multicultural, and, frankly, we’re all migrants at
some point in our past. That’s what makes nations strong.
Now on to the tough stuff . . . ensuring the success of ‘our’ family while
respecting their dignity, culture, and needs. It takes a village to raise a child.
And that global village is what we’re joining.
There are library stories here. A lot of them. And that is the point of this column.
At this point we haven’t met our family yet. We don’t know if they’re a nuclear
family, if a family member was killed in the war, how many kids there are and
what ages they are, the language, education, grades, occupations, or anything
really. However, we can plan ahead.
We’re doing that librarian thing! It’s just a simple mind-mapping exercise.
We’re identifying and drawing on the expertise of the experts who’ve been
involved with several waves of immigrants and refugees. We making lists!
We’re building a network of like-minded groups. We collecting websites of
advice as well as social service agencies, language help for learning or
translation, medical specialties, and so much more. We can’t be 100% prepared
but – like any good librarian – we now know where to look.
The media and librarian types among us built a website and social media
channels (http://www.RoncyRefugeeRelief.org).
We’re connected to the special programs offered for refugees by the Toronto
Public Library. We’re in touch with the refugee specialists at the Toronto District
School Board. We know where the settlement houses are and we’re getting
onside with the philosophy of welcoming new Canadians while allowing them to
make decision on their own with support from good information and advice.
It’s likely that every school and community in Toronto will host many Syrian
refugee families. It’s a similar situation to the influxes of Rwandan, Vietnamese,
Tamil, and Somali refugees in the past. This is the sad cycle of war and evil that
we seek to address. Canada celebrates its immigrant roots as well as valuing its
culture of tolerance and freedom. While we may dream of a day when this
process isn’t necessary, we can make a difference one family at a time.
Here’s things you can do as a librarian when you’re faced with supporting a
family, an adult, or a child.
So, as our libraries – public and school and Higher Ed prepare for this latest
influx of refugees we have brainstormed what can ‘help’. Also, all of this is in the
context of cultural sensitivity training and giving ‘voice’ to these new Canadians.
We try to go beyond the basics. We can’t take a new Canadian and push them
into the deep end of the pool. These people have already proved their resilience
by surviving. After meeting their housing, medical, security, education, and food
needs, we go the extra mile. Our family will have a laptop with internet
connectivity (and training if desired) to connect with information and the world at
large as well as distant family and friends through Skype and e-mail. A TV will
be there too. And you can’t easily survive in today’s world without a smart phone
(instead of a landline). Setting a family up for success is the goal. Here are
some of the services we will access through social service agencies, schools,
and libraries:
• Assessment & Registration
We assist in the initial school registration process, assess the needs of
students and their family, and develop an appropriate action plan in
coordination with the school.
• Practical Guidance
Throughout the school year we provide information sessions and guidance
for students and their families.
• Culturally Sensitive Counseling
We provide non-therapeutic and culturally sensitive counseling to address
any immediate needs and to facilitate adaptation to school and community.
Together we explore different options for their unique situation and commit to
ongoing support as needed.
• Supported Referrals & Casework
We are able to assist with immediate intervention services in crisis situations,
referring to programs and community resources. This includes joint case
management with professionals as required. Services may be long term for
complex cases.
• Home Visits & Outreach
We arrange home visits if more convenient or comfortable for the client. We
will monitor progress through regular contact.
• Cultural Understanding & Linguistic Interpretation
Note that interpretation may require a few days’ notice to coordinate.
• Advocacy
As a support to students’ families, we will advocate on their behalf with as
required and necessary.
• Resources and Access
We take all family members to their local library(ies) (Of course Toronto is
rich in these with over 100 branches soon) and signed up for library cards
and memberships. Orientation to the services and access there, multilingual
collections, ESL language programming, settlement workers, social workers
and more are done.
With our SSIL presence at the Library we provide support, information, referral
and guidance to newcomers on topics such as:
• English as a Second Language
• Interpretation and translation
• Schooling for your children
• Health care
• Employment and housing
• Community services and programs
• Immigration issues
• Canadian Citizenship
Doesn’t everything look just like a reference question or research project? I
know school libraries can brainstorm more activities to work on an individual
basis – just as we customize programming for new students from anywhere and
make a difference in their integration into the school and society at large.
This is an amazing opportunity. Earlier I asked when we’re overwhelmed by
enormity of it all, how can I possibly make a difference? What can I personally
do? It’s clear, this is the power of one where we’re now part of hundreds of
sponsorship groups, and making a difference in thousands of refugees coming to
our country. We can’t fix everything – but we can make a start!
Selected Resources:
These are a selection of a few text resources our group found useful.
IFLA Public Libraries Section: Responding! Public Libraries and Refugees
http://www.ifla.org/node/9925
CILIP: Welcoming Refugees to the UK (and to Libraries): The role of libraries in
times of crisis. http://www.cilip.org.uk/blog/welcoming-refugees-uk-libraries
European Commission: Selected Publications on refugees’ and migrants’
integration in schools.
http://ec.europa.eu/libraries/doc/refugees_and_migrants_integration_in_shcool.p
df
iColorin Colorado: The Refugee Experience: Books for Children
http://www.colorincolorado.org/booklist/refugee-experience-books-children
Refuge Magazine: Refugee Students in Toronto Schools.
http://refuge.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/refuge/article/view/21886
Libraries Without Borders: The IDEAS BOX, a Portable Multi-media Kit for
Refugee and Vulnerable Populations.
http://www.librarieswithoutborders.org/index.php/news-and-events/lwb-
news/item/291-the-ideas-box-a-portable-multi-media-kit-for-emergency-
humanitarian-situations
Harvard Library: Research Guides: Immigration Refugee and Advocacy.
http://guides.library.harvard.edu/immiglawadvocacy
School Library Journal: Syrian Refugees Welcomed to Canada with an SLJ Best
Book. http://www.slj.com/2015/12/public-libraries/syrian-refugees-welcomed-to-
canada-with-an-slj-best-book/
Central Alberta Refugee Effort (CARE): Settlement Support in Schools &
Libraries – SSISL. http://immigrant-centre.ca/our-services/settlement-support-in-
schools-libraries-ssisl/
NYPL: Understanding the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
http://www.nypl.org/blog/2015/10/02/understanding-syrian-refugee-crisis
Outreach Librarian: Outreach to overlooked populations: Refugees.
http://theoutreachlibrarian.com/2013/08/15/outreach-to-overlooked-populations-
refugees/
Library Journal: Public Libraries Support Refugees.
http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2015/12/public-services/public-libraries-support-
refugees/
The Shanti Volunteer Association: Libraries for Refugee Camps.
http://www.accu.or.jp/appreb/report/abd/33-1/abd3313.html
Stephen Abram, MLS is managing principal of Lighthouse Consulting Inc. He
has held executive roles in information and software vendors as well as
management roles in libraries. He is a Past President of SLA, the Ontario Library
Association and the Canadian Library Association. He is an international
speaker, author of ALA Edition’s Out Front with Stephen Abram and Stephen’s
Lighthouse Blog. Stephen would love to hear from you at
stephen.abram@gmail.com.
Libraries Without Borders: The IDEAS BOX, a Portable Multi-media Kit for
Refugee and Vulnerable Populations.
http://www.librarieswithoutborders.org/index.php/news-and-events/lwb-
news/item/291-the-ideas-box-a-portable-multi-media-kit-for-emergency-
humanitarian-situations
Harvard Library: Research Guides: Immigration Refugee and Advocacy.
http://guides.library.harvard.edu/immiglawadvocacy
School Library Journal: Syrian Refugees Welcomed to Canada with an SLJ Best
Book. http://www.slj.com/2015/12/public-libraries/syrian-refugees-welcomed-to-
canada-with-an-slj-best-book/
Central Alberta Refugee Effort (CARE): Settlement Support in Schools &
Libraries – SSISL. http://immigrant-centre.ca/our-services/settlement-support-in-
schools-libraries-ssisl/
NYPL: Understanding the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
http://www.nypl.org/blog/2015/10/02/understanding-syrian-refugee-crisis
Outreach Librarian: Outreach to overlooked populations: Refugees.
http://theoutreachlibrarian.com/2013/08/15/outreach-to-overlooked-populations-
refugees/
Library Journal: Public Libraries Support Refugees.
http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2015/12/public-services/public-libraries-support-
refugees/
The Shanti Volunteer Association: Libraries for Refugee Camps.
http://www.accu.or.jp/appreb/report/abd/33-1/abd3313.html
Stephen Abram, MLS is managing principal of Lighthouse Consulting Inc. He
has held executive roles in information and software vendors as well as
management roles in libraries. He is a Past President of SLA, the Ontario Library
Association and the Canadian Library Association. He is an international
speaker, author of ALA Edition’s Out Front with Stephen Abram and Stephen’s
Lighthouse Blog. Stephen would love to hear from you at
stephen.abram@gmail.com.

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Mmis 60 march 2016

  • 1. Pipeline Column Due Jan. 25, 2016 Internet @ Schools - CIL Mar. 2016 Issue Serving Special Populations and Making a Difference: Refugees by Stephen Abram This column is a bit of an indulgence since it sits at the overlapping personal interests of my life – libraries, charity and a passion for making a difference. But then, I know this mix is pretty typical of our profession. Some background: In Canada we committed to take in over 25,000 refugees in just a few short months at the end of 2015 and early 2016. Most of these refugees are families and have been living (with millions of others) for years in camps or desperately engaging in perilous sea travel. Too many have perished in this way and your heart cannot help but break just by seeing the news photos. So what is to be done? As an individual you’re overwhelmed by enormity of it all. How can I possibly make a difference? What can I personally do? My wife’s neighbourhood book club had just such a conversation. One of the women in the group had sponsored a family to Canada during the refugee crisis in Rwanda. They determined to sponsor an individual but he arrived at the airport with 8 orphans in tow that he couldn’t leave behind - and what the hill-o- beans – they took them all on. This was decades ago and that ‘family’ has successfully integrated into our society and contributes gratefully to Canada. It’s one of the success stories that inspired our group. They immediately determined that research was needed and they set the goal to sponsor a family in the group sponsorship class. (The Canadian government directly sponsors thousands of refugees as part of our international commitments. In Canada, you can also sponsor refugees as an individual or a group or in the family class.) So, our ragged troupe set out to figure all this out. Now 4-5 months later we’re all set to accept our family. We needed to raise $40,000 to cover the costs in Toronto for one year, find housing, and household goods, and much more. We’ve all been through our required police checks and taken the required church or government sponsored refugee training. By the time this article comes out we hope to have met our family (one of 25,000+ this year alone)! This was the easy part. We made personal financial commitments, ran fundraisers and sold friends and colleagues on donating. That was also easy – Canadian culture is pluralistic, multicultural, and, frankly, we’re all migrants at some point in our past. That’s what makes nations strong.
  • 2. Now on to the tough stuff . . . ensuring the success of ‘our’ family while respecting their dignity, culture, and needs. It takes a village to raise a child. And that global village is what we’re joining. There are library stories here. A lot of them. And that is the point of this column. At this point we haven’t met our family yet. We don’t know if they’re a nuclear family, if a family member was killed in the war, how many kids there are and what ages they are, the language, education, grades, occupations, or anything really. However, we can plan ahead. We’re doing that librarian thing! It’s just a simple mind-mapping exercise. We’re identifying and drawing on the expertise of the experts who’ve been involved with several waves of immigrants and refugees. We making lists! We’re building a network of like-minded groups. We collecting websites of advice as well as social service agencies, language help for learning or translation, medical specialties, and so much more. We can’t be 100% prepared but – like any good librarian – we now know where to look. The media and librarian types among us built a website and social media channels (http://www.RoncyRefugeeRelief.org). We’re connected to the special programs offered for refugees by the Toronto Public Library. We’re in touch with the refugee specialists at the Toronto District School Board. We know where the settlement houses are and we’re getting onside with the philosophy of welcoming new Canadians while allowing them to make decision on their own with support from good information and advice. It’s likely that every school and community in Toronto will host many Syrian refugee families. It’s a similar situation to the influxes of Rwandan, Vietnamese, Tamil, and Somali refugees in the past. This is the sad cycle of war and evil that we seek to address. Canada celebrates its immigrant roots as well as valuing its culture of tolerance and freedom. While we may dream of a day when this process isn’t necessary, we can make a difference one family at a time. Here’s things you can do as a librarian when you’re faced with supporting a family, an adult, or a child. So, as our libraries – public and school and Higher Ed prepare for this latest influx of refugees we have brainstormed what can ‘help’. Also, all of this is in the context of cultural sensitivity training and giving ‘voice’ to these new Canadians. We try to go beyond the basics. We can’t take a new Canadian and push them into the deep end of the pool. These people have already proved their resilience by surviving. After meeting their housing, medical, security, education, and food needs, we go the extra mile. Our family will have a laptop with internet
  • 3. connectivity (and training if desired) to connect with information and the world at large as well as distant family and friends through Skype and e-mail. A TV will be there too. And you can’t easily survive in today’s world without a smart phone (instead of a landline). Setting a family up for success is the goal. Here are some of the services we will access through social service agencies, schools, and libraries: • Assessment & Registration We assist in the initial school registration process, assess the needs of students and their family, and develop an appropriate action plan in coordination with the school. • Practical Guidance Throughout the school year we provide information sessions and guidance for students and their families. • Culturally Sensitive Counseling We provide non-therapeutic and culturally sensitive counseling to address any immediate needs and to facilitate adaptation to school and community. Together we explore different options for their unique situation and commit to ongoing support as needed. • Supported Referrals & Casework We are able to assist with immediate intervention services in crisis situations, referring to programs and community resources. This includes joint case management with professionals as required. Services may be long term for complex cases. • Home Visits & Outreach We arrange home visits if more convenient or comfortable for the client. We will monitor progress through regular contact. • Cultural Understanding & Linguistic Interpretation Note that interpretation may require a few days’ notice to coordinate. • Advocacy As a support to students’ families, we will advocate on their behalf with as required and necessary. • Resources and Access We take all family members to their local library(ies) (Of course Toronto is rich in these with over 100 branches soon) and signed up for library cards and memberships. Orientation to the services and access there, multilingual collections, ESL language programming, settlement workers, social workers and more are done.
  • 4. With our SSIL presence at the Library we provide support, information, referral and guidance to newcomers on topics such as: • English as a Second Language • Interpretation and translation • Schooling for your children • Health care • Employment and housing • Community services and programs • Immigration issues • Canadian Citizenship Doesn’t everything look just like a reference question or research project? I know school libraries can brainstorm more activities to work on an individual basis – just as we customize programming for new students from anywhere and make a difference in their integration into the school and society at large. This is an amazing opportunity. Earlier I asked when we’re overwhelmed by enormity of it all, how can I possibly make a difference? What can I personally do? It’s clear, this is the power of one where we’re now part of hundreds of sponsorship groups, and making a difference in thousands of refugees coming to our country. We can’t fix everything – but we can make a start! Selected Resources: These are a selection of a few text resources our group found useful. IFLA Public Libraries Section: Responding! Public Libraries and Refugees http://www.ifla.org/node/9925 CILIP: Welcoming Refugees to the UK (and to Libraries): The role of libraries in times of crisis. http://www.cilip.org.uk/blog/welcoming-refugees-uk-libraries European Commission: Selected Publications on refugees’ and migrants’ integration in schools. http://ec.europa.eu/libraries/doc/refugees_and_migrants_integration_in_shcool.p df iColorin Colorado: The Refugee Experience: Books for Children http://www.colorincolorado.org/booklist/refugee-experience-books-children Refuge Magazine: Refugee Students in Toronto Schools. http://refuge.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/refuge/article/view/21886
  • 5. Libraries Without Borders: The IDEAS BOX, a Portable Multi-media Kit for Refugee and Vulnerable Populations. http://www.librarieswithoutborders.org/index.php/news-and-events/lwb- news/item/291-the-ideas-box-a-portable-multi-media-kit-for-emergency- humanitarian-situations Harvard Library: Research Guides: Immigration Refugee and Advocacy. http://guides.library.harvard.edu/immiglawadvocacy School Library Journal: Syrian Refugees Welcomed to Canada with an SLJ Best Book. http://www.slj.com/2015/12/public-libraries/syrian-refugees-welcomed-to- canada-with-an-slj-best-book/ Central Alberta Refugee Effort (CARE): Settlement Support in Schools & Libraries – SSISL. http://immigrant-centre.ca/our-services/settlement-support-in- schools-libraries-ssisl/ NYPL: Understanding the Syrian Refugee Crisis. http://www.nypl.org/blog/2015/10/02/understanding-syrian-refugee-crisis Outreach Librarian: Outreach to overlooked populations: Refugees. http://theoutreachlibrarian.com/2013/08/15/outreach-to-overlooked-populations- refugees/ Library Journal: Public Libraries Support Refugees. http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2015/12/public-services/public-libraries-support- refugees/ The Shanti Volunteer Association: Libraries for Refugee Camps. http://www.accu.or.jp/appreb/report/abd/33-1/abd3313.html Stephen Abram, MLS is managing principal of Lighthouse Consulting Inc. He has held executive roles in information and software vendors as well as management roles in libraries. He is a Past President of SLA, the Ontario Library Association and the Canadian Library Association. He is an international speaker, author of ALA Edition’s Out Front with Stephen Abram and Stephen’s Lighthouse Blog. Stephen would love to hear from you at stephen.abram@gmail.com.
  • 6. Libraries Without Borders: The IDEAS BOX, a Portable Multi-media Kit for Refugee and Vulnerable Populations. http://www.librarieswithoutborders.org/index.php/news-and-events/lwb- news/item/291-the-ideas-box-a-portable-multi-media-kit-for-emergency- humanitarian-situations Harvard Library: Research Guides: Immigration Refugee and Advocacy. http://guides.library.harvard.edu/immiglawadvocacy School Library Journal: Syrian Refugees Welcomed to Canada with an SLJ Best Book. http://www.slj.com/2015/12/public-libraries/syrian-refugees-welcomed-to- canada-with-an-slj-best-book/ Central Alberta Refugee Effort (CARE): Settlement Support in Schools & Libraries – SSISL. http://immigrant-centre.ca/our-services/settlement-support-in- schools-libraries-ssisl/ NYPL: Understanding the Syrian Refugee Crisis. http://www.nypl.org/blog/2015/10/02/understanding-syrian-refugee-crisis Outreach Librarian: Outreach to overlooked populations: Refugees. http://theoutreachlibrarian.com/2013/08/15/outreach-to-overlooked-populations- refugees/ Library Journal: Public Libraries Support Refugees. http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2015/12/public-services/public-libraries-support- refugees/ The Shanti Volunteer Association: Libraries for Refugee Camps. http://www.accu.or.jp/appreb/report/abd/33-1/abd3313.html Stephen Abram, MLS is managing principal of Lighthouse Consulting Inc. He has held executive roles in information and software vendors as well as management roles in libraries. He is a Past President of SLA, the Ontario Library Association and the Canadian Library Association. He is an international speaker, author of ALA Edition’s Out Front with Stephen Abram and Stephen’s Lighthouse Blog. Stephen would love to hear from you at stephen.abram@gmail.com.