Nurturing a multicultural community
Creating an active multicultural community of library users in Athens.
We Need Books is a multilingual library that opened its doors in 2019 in the multicultural neighbourhood of Kypseli in Athens.
The library slowly became a well-known meeting place for local people. Even though it had regular, multilingual users, they were not forming a strong community. This is a challenge facing many libraries across Europe that are striving to serve a multicultural population – but as a smaller library with a limited number of users, We Need Books developed some innovative solutions.
Working together with the Greek Forum of Migrants, the challenge team used a range of participatory methods to reach unserved communities. In particular, they wanted to include migrant representatives in decision-making for the library.
From ‘voluntary contributions’ to formal participatory workshops, the library users were invited to take part in the library’s daily life. Instead of simply being provided with a service, they became members of a strong community, where people help and take care of each other. The library became a home, a place to grow, experiment, meet new friends and be themselves.
The challenge team said: “We believe that, if more and more diverse people are involved in the ‘shaping’ of our library, more and more diverse people will benefit from it.”
It has become clear that participatory methods are a key element to fostering a multicultural community of library users.
The initiative has been met with enthusiasm from users, with more visitors to the library, more members joining and more participants at events. The challenge team intends to keep applying these successful methods to find new ways for their multilingual community to keep growing and to grow stronger, with members taking care of each other in these challenging times.
Their main goal for the future is to be able to share their solutions and ideas with other libraries in Europe and beyond. They want to find allies to work with towards creating innovative multicultural library services for all.
The challenge team said: “Being part of a European project with like-minded libraries and communities gives us hope for the future of libraries!”
The library’s website is weneedbooks.org
@weneedbooks on Instagram