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The role of libraries in supporting refugees and asylum seekers[TG2/support]


2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Event Type

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This event will provide information and good practice guidance on how libraries can support students who are refugees, asylum seekers, or ‘new arrivals’ (people who cross borders to reach a country).

The session will begin with a presentation from John Vincent, outlining the wider context and reasons for migration, the barriers new arrivals face in getting to and into the UK, and some of the potential barriers refugee students face accessing education and using libraries.

Birkbeck librarians Melissa Steiner and Catherine Lauriol will speak about the work they have undertaken supporting the Compass Project, a scholarship programme for students seeking asylum in the UK, as part of Birkbeck’s designation as a University of Sanctuary.

The session will close with a short talk by a former Compass Scholar who is continuing her studies at Birkbeck who will reflect on her experiences using academic libraries.

There will be time to ask questions during the session.

2.00pm – 2.30pm: ‘Libraries of Sanctuary – what does this involve?’ – John Vincent, The Network – tackling social exclusion

2.30pm – 3.00pm: ‘Birkbeck Library’s support for new arrivals’ – Melissa Steiner, Subject Librarian, and  Catherine Lauriol, User Support Manager, Birkbeck University of London

3.00pm – 3.30pm: ‘My journey to university’ – Humera Kanwal (student), Birkbeck University of London

Speaker biographies:

John Vincent has worked in the public sector since the 1960s, primarily for Hertfordshire, Lambeth and Enfield public library services. In 1997, he was invited to become part of the team that produced the UK’s first review of public libraries and social exclusion (from which The Network, which he now coordinates, originated).

John runs courses and lectures, writes, produces regular newsletters and ebulletins, and lobbies for greater awareness of the role that libraries, archives, museums, and the cultural & heritage sector play in contributing to social justice.

He is particularly interested in supporting the work that libraries do with young people in care, with LGBTQ+ people, and with people seeking sanctuary and other ‘new arrivals’ to the UK.

John is also currently the Chair of the CILIP Benevolent Fund.

In Oct 2021, City of Sanctuary published a second edition of his guide, Libraries of Sanctuary resource pack; and, in Nov 2022, Facet Publishing published Libraries and sanctuary: supporting refugees and other new arrivals. He is currently about to start writing another book for Facet Publishing, this time on libraries’ responses to young people in care.

In 2014, John was given a CILIP CDEG Special Diversity Award, and, in September 2014, he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of CILIP.

Melissa Steiner & Catherine Lauriol: Melissa Steiner is the Subject Librarian for the School of Business, Economics and Informatics at Birkbeck Library. Catherine Lauriol is the User Support Manager at Birkbeck Library.

Catherine and Melissa started the Library’s Access and Engagement Group in 2019. The group has been involved in several of the University’s access and engagement activities, including school visits, the On Track programme that prepares students for life as an undergraduate at Birkbeck and the Compass Project to support new arrivals in accessing higher education.

Humera Kanwal: My name is Humera Kanwal and currently a final year student of Psychology at Birkbeck University. I am a mother of 3 daughters and have been in the UK for the last 4 years. Being an ambitious woman, I resumed my studies after being lived in Saudi Arabia for 15 years with my husband. Due to this long break from education, I decided to do a foundation year with The Compass Project at the honorable University of Birkbeck, which granted me a scholarship for a Psychology foundation year, which later turned into a full-term scholarship keeping in view my good grades. I am now proceeding into the final year and highly motivated to achieve my goals of serving the community, especially in the health sector.

£25.00 members
£50.00 non member institutions

Information for joining:

  • This session is virtual and will run via Zoom. Once your booking has been confirmed, joining instructions will be emailed the day before the event.
  • Electronic CPD attendance certificates can be provided on request. Please request via

Cancellations less than one week before the event will be charged a 50% cancellation fee. In the event of a ‘no-show’ on the day, the full fee will be charged.

To book a place please use our online booking form. Please remember to include your PO number as bookings cannot be confirmed without this.

Booking form for M25 Members   Booking form for non-Members