What is social inclusion?
The definition of social inclusion used by CULC/CBUC is: the participatory, authentic, and accountable manner in which institutions uphold and reinforce the principles of access, equity, and thus social inclusion for all. In particular, social inclusion is the manner in which institutions:
- public libraries understand and engage their communities;
- public libraries explore, view, and challenge barriers, values, and behaviours;
- public libraries develop, implement, and evaluate systems, programs, policies, and procedures;
- public libraries provide equitable access to services and decision-making opportunities;
- public libraries demonstrate the level of inclusion through tangible outcomes.
What is the Library’s Role in Removing Barriers to Social Inclusion?
In addition to offering a safe play and learning environment, libraries have a role to play in breaking down barriers for new immigrants by providing free information and services. These include access to:
- government, health, and community resources;
- targeted and relevant services;
- ICT such as free computer and Internet use;
- potential job opportunities;
- information on Canada and local communities;
- tools that help youth build leadership skills to impact policy development.
Libraries are also well positioned to provide exposure to:
- systems, practices, and governance that help overcome settlement and language barriers;
- conversational English and English-language instruction.
Public Libraries’ efforts need to be lucid in what they aim to accomplish; that is, to resolve social exclusion and to promote social inclusion.
Key Learnings: Libraries and Social Inclusion
- Public libraries have a fundamental role to promote social inclusion by bridging the gap between the information poor and the information rich.
- Access to information is imperative for social inclusion, but simply putting multilingual books in libraries will not foster social inclusion for new immigrants.
- Librarians have an opportunity to make libraries a place where immigrants feel included by making them relevant and meaningful. They must also provide the information literacy skills that will make library programs and collections accessible.
- Librarians and information managers should view themselves as mentors and gatekeepers for those deprived of access to ICTs and meaningful information.
- Libraries, through the provision of resources, public space, and ICT access and training, have a key role to play in the promotion of social inclusion.
- A myriad of barriers, including institutional factors such as library membership policies, must be examined and assessed in partnership with the communities libraries serve.