12 Apr 2021

Libraries of Sanctuary: Supporting Migrant Communities

Guest post by Louise Cooke-Escapil  Louise works as a Library Assistant at Maynooth University Library. She is interested in the social impact of libraries.


The City of Sanctuary is a collection of groups across the UK and Ireland - including theatres, schools, colleges, universities, churches, and gardens - that aim to build a culture of inclusiveness for incoming migrants. Specific organizations involved include Places of Sanctuary Ireland and, as of June 2020, Libraries of Sanctuary. The Library of Sanctuary title is awarded to libraries working to fill gaps in provision of information and resources to refugees and asylum seekers. Libraries playing this role is not novel, however the introduction of this title is a welcome step towards further developing public library services for those who may otherwise be left unseen.

Proto-Library of Sanctuary

It was this aspect of libraries working as powerful regenerative educational institutions that first drew me into librarianship as a profession in 2015. My first paid library job was in the Public Information Library in the Pompidou Centre in Paris. This experience shaped how I think about libraries and showed me the important social role they can play in people’s lives. In 2015, a new wave of migration into Europe had reached an all-time high. I worked in the autodidactic section of the library, where patrons came to borrow materials to help them learn new skills, such as driving, study skills for secondary school exams, or, most frequently, learning a language. I found myself working in a library in France that had more resources on learning Irish than my local library had back home in Ireland. If people chose to, they could borrow materials on learning up to 250 languages, including Sámi, Zulu, and Navajo to name a few. This section of the library also had a huge variety of materials, from books to CDs, DVDs, computer programmes, newspapers, magazines, and TV channels from 11 different countries.

Photograph: Pixabay

During the year I worked in the library, I realised how necessary this service was to many of the patrons. Before taking up this post, I had experienced language learning in a very different context. Learning a language was something people did out of love of the language or to be able to travel with greater ease. Now, many of the patrons who regularly came to my desk came to learn French out of necessity. Often, patrons could not speak French or English and did not have the means to ask for what they were looking for in the library. Word must have travelled and as more patrons would come up to our desk we quickly learnt to adapt. Myself and my desk colleagues started to keep a list of languages at the desk, each language written in its own script. We would ask the patron to go through the list until they identified a language, be it Arabic, Pashtu, Urdu, Farsi, or any of the other dozen languages we had listed. Once we had determined the patron’s mother tongue, we would find language-learning materials for them and set them up at a work desk. Eventually, those who kept returning would be able to ask for the materials they wanted in French. It was so rewarding to see patrons’ progress month by month as they moved on to more difficult materials, grew more confident in their abilities, and became more fluent in French.

Home to Ireland

After my time in France, I worked for a short spell at King’s College London. That was cut short by COVID-19. In January of this year, I took up a post in Engagement and Information Services (EIS) at Maynooth University. Returning to Ireland, I was delighted to see similar work to that I had encountered in Paris. Last year, Maynooth University became a University of Sanctuary and we currently have three students who live in Direct Provision undertaking degrees.

Libraries of Sanctuary

New initiatives such as Libraries of Sanctuary are encouraging libraries across the UK and Ireland to strengthen their services to refugees and asylum seekers. Like the Public Information Library in Paris, Libraries of Sanctuary have identified a new need, particularly pronounced over the last few decades, to pay particular attention to emerging communities in their locale, as well as existing ones. A resource pack, created by John Vincent, was released in June 2020 which gives libraries interested in this initiative a roadmap towards being recognised as a Library of Sanctuary.

The first Irish library to qualify for this title was Portlaoise Library on the 10th of March 2020. Librarians worked with communities from the local Direct Provision Centre to foster a space where everyone in the community could find tools and resources which were tailored to them (City of Sanctuary, 2021). At the award ceremony, County Librarian Bernie Folan said on the day;

“Places of Sanctuary is a movement that seeks to promote a culture of welcome in every sphere of society, a network of places of sanctuary where refugees and migrants are welcomed and included. We know that newcomers have a lot to offer, and we believe that as barriers come down and connections are made, the whole of society benefits” (Kiernan, 2020)

Photograph: cityofsanctuary.org

Going Forward

Libraries are in a unique position in that they are situated in almost every village and town in Ireland. Library staff are reaching out to migrant communities in their area and provide much needed services. They are a bridge for new communities, providing services to all. The first library to be awarded this the title of Library of Sanctuary, Thimblemill Library in the West Midlands in England, offered a number of services to emerging communities in their area such as ESOL classes for those who wanted to improve their English, welfare and asylum sessions to help with the mental and physical impacts seeking asylum can cause, and “Welcome to Your Area” events that aim to introduce locals to each other and allow newcomers to feel welcome (Vincent & Clark, 2020). It’s exciting to see this work being recognised and encouraged in libraries. Over the next few years, I hope many more libraries all over Ireland will continue to develop their services for refugees and asylum seekers. Public libraries have a key role in creating an inclusive and welcoming society.

More information on moving forward with qualifying for the title of Library of Sanctuary can be found at the Irish City of Sanctuary group’s contact us page. The Library Association of Ireland’s Career Development Group will also be holding an information evening later this year where John Vincent, the creator of the Libraries of Sanctuary resource pack, along with other speakers, will discuss the process of qualifying for the Library of Sanctuary title. In order to be the first to hear about booking information for this event, be sure to sign up to the LAI’s Career Development Group’s mailing list, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.


Kiernan, L., 2020. Launch: Multicultural Portlaoise to receive Library of Sanctuary award. [online] Leinsterexpress.ie. [Accessed 9 March 2021].

Places of Sanctuary Ireland. 2021. Portlaoise Celebrates Ireland’s First Library of Sanctuary. [online] [Accessed 9 March 2021].

Sinnott Solicitors. 2015. Direct Provision 'A Severe Violation of Human Rights' - Sinnott Solicitors. [online]  [Accessed 9 March 2021].

Vincent, J., 2020. Libraries of Sanctuary Resource Pack. [ebook] City of Sanctuary. Available at: [Accessed 9 March 2021].

Vincent, J. and Clark, B., 2020. Libraries of Sanctuary. Alexandria: The Journal of National and International Library and Information Issues, 30(1), pp.6-7.

6 Apr 2021

An Exhibition of African Women Writers at Maynooth University Library

Guest Post by Edel King (MLIS from UCD, 2015). She currently works as a Library Assistant in the Engagement and Information Services Department in Maynooth University Library.

Image by Elaine Bean

The Why?

World Book Day took place this year on Thursday, March 4th. It is a celebration of writers and books from around the world. Myself and two of my colleagues were tasked with creating an online exhibition of African Women Writers to celebrate World Book Day at Maynooth University Library. 

One of the six themes of  Maynooth University Library’s Strategic Plan 2020-2023 is Equality, Diversity & Interculturalism. A task under this theme is to,“ensure a diverse range of Library exhibitions and events that reflect both our increasingly diverse university community and national developments”. Organising this exhibit for World Book Day contributed to the action under this task. 

The theme of African Women Writers was chosen for a variety of reasons. The University offers Post-Colonial Studies as part of its English Degree programme. There are also quite a number of African authors in the library collection due to a 2020 initiative with the lecturer of the aforementioned programme to identify and acquire a larger selection of novels by African writers. That initiative was also part of our Library Strategic Plan, where one of the key themes is Collections and a task under that theme is,“we will work with the campus community to ensure our collections are inclusive”.

One of the Writers included in the Exhibition

The How?

I work in the Engagement and Information Services (EIS) department of Maynooth University Library and my two colleagues on the project, David Rinehart and Adam Staunton, both work in the Special Collections and Archives department. Working on this project gave me an opportunity to get to know them as, like everyone, the majority of us in the library have been working from home and the two of them started in the library relatively recently.

Due to social distancing restrictions, we met online only. We met at least once a week via Microsoft Teams.  

Image by Elaine Bean

We chose the writers to include in the exhibition from a list given to us of African Women Writers. We divided the list amongst the three of us and checked holdings in the catalogue. We endeavoured to include writers from as many different countries as possible. We also consulted the Caine prize for African Writing and selected a few writers for inclusion from there. In total we had 15 writers from 13 African countries.

After we had chosen the writers, we divided them between us and wrote 100 word biographies on each. We then sourced images. For each writer we included an image of the writer, a map of Africa with their country highlighted, and book covers of a selection of their writings available in the Maynooth University catalogue. 

We had many discussions over how to source the book covers. We did screenshots from the catalogue but the quality of these images varied and were, for the most part, poor. We also sourced some covers from Amazon and GoodReads. 

Our colleague Elaine Bean created wonderfully creative collages (that you can see in this post) that we were able to include at various points of the exhibition.

Once we had all of that material gathered and prepared, we started using an application called Sway. I had never used the application before, but I am quite proficient with new technology and so a demonstration from one of my colleagues along with some practice time and I was confident enough to use it.


Sway offers a very dynamic way of exhibiting book covers using a feature called Stacks. The covers are layered on top of each other and a click of the mouse allows the user to move through them. 

We had decisions to make regarding vertical vs horizontal layout (we opted for horizontal), font size and type. However, I will say, while it was a great application to work with and gave us what we needed, Sway is limited in its creative scope. 

Then it was just a matter of putting all of the information in, proofreading, moving things around and making further smaller creative decisions.


We worked well together as a team, all of us speaking up and making decisions together that everyone was happy with. 

We launched the exhibition on World Book Day and highlighted it on social media. We were delighted to get a retweet from one of the authors included and a comment from another. 

Below is a list of the authors included with a selection of their titles. To view the exhibition please click here.

Exhibition Bibliography

Leila Aboulela (Egypt)

Bird Summons (2019)

Coloured Lights (2001)

Elsewhere, Home (2018)

The Kindness of Enemies (2015)

Lyrics Alley (2010)

Minaret (2005)

The Translator (1999)

Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana)

Changes: A Love Story (1991)

Our Sister Killjoy (1977)

Mariama Bâ (Senegal)

Scarlet Song (1981)

So Long a Letter (1980)

Doreen Baingana (Uganda)

Tropical Fish (2005)

Lauren Beukes (South Africa)

Afterland (2020) 

Broken Monsters (2015) 

Maverick: Extraordinary Women from South Africa's Past (2004) 

Moxyland (2008) 

The Shining Girls (2013) 

Zoo City (2018) 

Oyinkan Braithwaite (Nigeria)

My Sister, the serial killer (2018)

Assia Djebar (Algeria)

Ces voix qui m’assiegent: en marge de ma francophonie (1999)

The Tongue’s Blood does not Run Dry: Algerian Stories (1997)

Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone)

Ancestor Stones (2006)

The Devil that Danced on the Water (2002)

The Memory of Love (2010)

Petina Gappah (Zimbabwe)

The Book of Memory (2015) 

An Elegy for Easterly: Stories (2009) 

Out of Darkness: Shining Light (2019)

Rotten Row (2016) 

Meron Hadero (Ethiopia)

A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times (2018)

The Drought That Drowned Us (2020)

Medallion (2020)

Sinkholes (2017)

The Suitcase (2015)

Bessie Head (Botswana)

Maru (1971)

A Question of Power (1973)

Serowe, village of the rain wind (1981)

A Woman Alone: autobiographical writings (2007)

Laila Lalami (Morocco)

Hope and other dangerous pursuits (2005)

The moor’s account (2014)

The Other Americans (2019)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

Americanah (2013)

Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)

Purple Hibiscus: A Novel (2003)

Makena Onjerika (Kenya)

Fanta Blackcurrant (2017)

Zoë Wicomb (South Africa)

Boy in a Jute-Sack Hood (2007) 

David’s Story (2000) 

October (2015) 

The One That Got Away (2008) 

Playing in the Light (2006) 

Race, Nation, Translation: South African Essays, 1990-2013 (2018) 

You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town (1987) 

Posted on Tuesday, April 06, 2021 | Categories:

11 Mar 2021

The #ebooksos campaign in Ireland


Cathal McCauley is University Librarian at Maynooth University and Vice President of the Library Association of Ireland


During the summer of 2020 Stuart Hamilton (Head of Libraries Development at the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA), the agency responsible for all public libraries in Ireland), Marian Higgins (County Librarian for Kildare and current president of the Library Association of Ireland) and I were discussing what we considered as the perfect storm of financial pressures, a dysfunctional market and skyrocketing customer demand in relation to ebook provision.

Irish libraries, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, had significantly increased spending on ebooks.  On the 26th March, just 13 days into what could now be called lockdown 1, the Irish government announced an additional €200,000 investment in ebooks for public libraries and they injected a similar amount again in June.  Academic libraries have also ramped up spending on ebooks and welcomed the decision by many publishers to make a range of content available temporarily available at no additional cost.  Ebook usage soared by up to 300% and the increased content was broadly welcomed by students, faculty and members of the public.  However, we like many other library leaders and colleagues were worried about the sustainability of the approach and concerned about the fact that this increased dependence and spend on ebooks was really highlighting the longstanding problems with the current models of ebook provision that predated COVID-19.

Ebooksos Campaign

As we struggled with these issues Johanna Anderson’s ebooksos campaign was gathering momentum in the UK and Research Libraries UK issued a content statement in support of libraries.   Anderson’s campaign started when she was unable to obtain ebooks to support a new flagship course at her own institution.  The few titles that were available as ebooks cost multiples of the print equivalent via third party platforms.  To add salt to her wounds, the titles that were made available were sold directly to the school for an annual subscription – limiting access to a small group of students and removing the library from the relationship.  Frustrated by this experience she started the ebooksos campaign.

The UK ebooksos campaign’s primary objective was to call for an investigation into the academic ebook market.  By early March 2021 more than 3,725 people had signed the open letter including the Library Association of Ireland, CILIP, senior university staff, eminent academics, student unions and many librarians.  In parallel to this the campaign crowd sourced data to highlight the issues of concern.  This confirmed that many ebooks are many times more expensive than their print equivalents, many titles are unavailable as ebooks and vendors apply a raft of onerous terms and conditions to ebooks that are available.

The Campaign in Ireland

Building on the work of our UK colleagues I drafted a call for action on what I called the electronic content crisis facing libraries and library users and, working with Marian and Stuart, the call was signed by four key representative groups: the Library of Association of Ireland who represent librarians and libraries in Ireland; the Irish Universities Association Librarian’s Group; the Technological and Higher Education Association Librarians’ Group; and the Consortium of National and University Libraries.  This was an unprecedented cross-sectoral move which underlined the level of concern in libraries about these issues.  This cross-sectoral dimension is an interesting difference from the UK campaign which started out with an exclusively academic library focus.

The full text of the call is available online.  The key issues are around the unsustainability of electronic content and ebook pricing and the objectionable terms and conditions under which they are made available.  It is important to note that public libraries face even worse terms and conditions than academic libraries do with concepts such as ‘exploding licenses’.  In addition to highlighting these problematic issues the call also suggested areas for action including more support for Open Educational Resources, copyright reform and - echoing the campaign in the UK – a call for these issues to be investigated by government. 

We followed up the call, again following the ebooksos example, by gathering examples of the kinds of issues we were concerned about and our data collection confirmed that some ebooks are 20 times more expensive than the print equivalent and many are 3 – 10 times more expensive.  Interestingly, the data gathered suggests that the largest multipliers are applied by the large international publishers rather than the small local Irish publishers.

Gaining Momentum

The campaign has attracted a great deal of attention.  Webinars focusing on it have attracted over 500 delegates, librarians involved in the campaign have been asked to speak at many events, the BBC, Guardian, IFLA and many more organisations have written about it.  In the UK an increasing number of senior staff in relevant organisations and government departments are now interested in the campaign and the issues it is highlighting.  

Next steps

Due to the cross-sectoral nature of the Irish campaign we need to liaise with a range of government departments.  We have written to the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and the LGMA’s Library’s Committee has referred the request for an investigation to the Department of Rural and Community Development who will in turn refer it to the relevant department for such matters – possibly the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

During March and April we are ramping up our social media campaign and we will be using the graphics and the #ebooksos hashtag from the UK ebooksos campaign which will make the two campaigns more seamless which is welcome.  We will also continue to work with the UK campaign and colleagues in the EU on highlighting our concerns and developing our responses.  To conclude, I want to pay tribute to Johanna Anderson for her passion, energy vision and leadership of the campaign – she is a credit to Librarianship!

8 Feb 2021

Digital Commons at CCT College Dublin: Reflections on A Work Placement

Authored by Amy Fitzpatrick.
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amy-fitzpatrick-538389bb/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amyfitz902


In October of 2020, I graduated from Dublin Business School with an MSc in Information and Library Management which is validated by Quality and Qualifications Ireland and accredited by the Library Association of Ireland (LAI). The programme gave me a thorough and applied grounding in a range of traditional and technical modules such as records management, information technology as well as a recently introduced module on open librarianship.  As part of the Open Librarianship module which is taught by Jane Buggle and Niamh Brennan, I undertook the library publishing curriculum produced by the Library Publishing Coalition in partnership with Educopia and PKP.

The Library Publishing Coalition defines Library Publishing as:

 ‘the set of activities led by college and university libraries to support the creation, dissemination, and curation of scholarly, creative, and/or educational works. Generally, library publishing requires a production process, presents original work not previously made available, and applies a level of certification to the content published, whether through peer review or extension of the institutional brand. Based on core library values, and building on the traditional skills of librarians, it is distinguished from other publishing fields by a preference for Open Access dissemination as well as a willingness to embrace informal and experimental forms of scholarly communication and to challenge the status quo.’  Sarah Lippincott. 2016. “The Library Publishing Coalition: Organizing Libraries to Enhance Scholarly Publishing”.  Insights  29 (2): 186–91.

 In addition to the publication of journals and monographs, the publication of theses and other scholarly materials on institutional repositories are also categorised as library publishing activities. I found the Open Librarianship module on the MSc in Information and Library Management really interesting.  I was particularly interested in the attitudes of higher education librarians towards library publishing activities within their institutions. This interest informed my thesis which was entitled “Investigating the Effects of the Implementation of Open Access Publishing on the Roles of Academic Librarians”. In this study, I surveyed academic librarians in the Dublin region. The interviewees discussed how metrics generated by their institutional repositories could be used to demonstrate to institutional stakeholders the demand for scholarly content on an open access basis. Institutional repositories also stimulated other publishing initiatives, such as journal and monograph publications.


In November 2020, I was delighted to commence a work placement with the Hume Library at CCT College Dublin under the supervision of Justin Smyth and Marie O’Neill. CCT College Dublin is a member of the Higher Education Colleges Association. It offers business and ICT courses up to level 9 of the National Framework for Qualifications, and boasts a newly built library managed by Justin Smyth, a graduate of UCD’s Masters in Library and Information Studies. He is also a member of the LAI’s National Library Week Ireland taskforce and of the LAI’s Open Science Group. Marie O’ Neill is Head of Enhancement at CCT and a Council member of the LAI. She is also a member of the Library Publishing Group.  Marie and Justin are also both members of the HECA Library Committee.

The focus of the placement was working with CCT’S institutional repository, ARC (Academic Research Collection). ARC has been developed using Digital Commons software. Although it is in the early stages of development, ARC collects and showcases the scholarly activity of CCT in accordance with the institution’s Research Strategy. ARC captures a wide variety of scholarly activities, including conference presentations, the publication of academic papers, and institutional reports, as well the outputs of the CCT Excellence in Teaching series and the College’s Certificate in Teaching and Learning. One of the six priorities of CCT’s research strategy was to establish an institutional repository that will “showcase faculty and student research on an open access basis”.

Reporting to Justin and Marie, I was specifically tasked with working on ARC and other recently acquired Bepress platforms. An interesting aspect of the placement was that it was conducted remotely due to the lockdown conditions at the time. I was unable to work within the Hume library itself but despite this, both Justin and Marie made sure that I was accommodated for by providing remote access to the materials and software that I needed. Our virtual meetings were conducted every other day and I received constant support by email. I also helped to populate CCT’s Expert Gallery which is a database of staff profiles that collates their individual scholarly activities.

One of the primary tasks of ARC management was to upload students’ final year applied projects to the repository. There is an institutional mandate (with an opt-out facility) for undergraduate and postgraduate work with a mark of 2.1 and upwards to be deposited into ARC on an open access basis. This mandate was put in place by the CCT Academic Council and aligns with the goals of the CCT Research Strategy.  The inclusion of high quality student work on ARC represents an invaluable teaching and learning tool. Students can instantly see what a high-quality project looks like. Additionally, ARC can act as a powerful medium for showcasing how the library can support students. A study conducted by Erin Passehl-Stoddart and Robert Monge posits that by including student works in institutional repositories, students will be incentivised to work “towards instilling better information literacy standards, including scholarly communication”. By introducing students to scholarly publishing at an earlier stage in their academic career, their understanding of the research cycle can grow. The library is also better positioned to capture more of this output.

Notably, all records collected on ARC are also added to the Digital Commons network, a database containing the collections of every Digital Commons repository. This promotes the content of ARC on an international level. A list comprising of the 600 institutions within the Digital Commons network can be found at https://bepress.com/categories_wdc/all-institutions/. CCT College Dublin is included in this list, as well as being listed in the international Library Publishing Directory. Digital Commons provides a controlled vocabulary that can be added to ARC records that makes them universally searchable within the network, adding to their visibility and access.

Benefits of Placement

During the placement, I was able to put into practice the multitude of skills that I learned during my Masters. I was also provided with the opportunity to put theory into practice. Examples of those opportunities are listed below:

·         Gained practical library experience.

·         Harvested academic content for inclusion on ARC.

·         Liaised with both library and academic personnel across the college.

·         Liaised with the Digital Commons team and other third parties.

·         Reviewed the taxonomy of CCT’s Academic Records Collection (ARC) to suggest changes and refine its existing categories.

A particular highlight for me was attending a digital commons event in which Marie and Justin spoke about ARC at CCT. The presentation was hosted on a live-streaming platform and I sat in on the session as an observer. It was wonderful to see the engagement that Marie and Justin received in the question-and-answer portion of their presentation, as it illustrated that the audience recognised the value in developing an institutional repository.

The placement proved beneficial for CCT’s library department as well. As a graduate of a library school, I already had a theoretical knowledge of how institutional repositories operated, as well as how they functioned within the wider context of an academic library. I was able to suggest edits to the categories used on ARC in order to refine its searching capabilities. As well as this, library staff receive monthly readership reports from Digital Commons and the reports generated after my placement indicate increased engagement with the repository.


CCT College Dublin has recently finalised discussions with both DBS and UCD to take one graduate from each library school on placement per year going forward. Digital Commons will remain a feature of the placement.

Completing my Masters, my thesis, the Library Publishing Curriculum, and the Digital Commons placement has highlighted the cutting-edge developments within the open access and library publishing arenas for me. As a recent graduate, I am looking forward to continuing to study these developments as they grow and advocating for further library publishing initiatives.