Since the start of the war, Dutch libraries have been accumulating a large collection of books and teaching materials for Ukrainian refugees. They vary from free printed and digital reading matter, to language aids, support for job-seekers, and meetings to make people feel at home in the Netherlands.

‘It is important to offer refugees prospects as well as shelter’, says Astrid Kraal, network manager of the public library system at the KB (the National Library of the Netherlands). ‘Libraries are the perfect place to provide help for newcomers. Promoting reading and helping people to develop their language and personal skills are among our regular top priorities - and this is exactly the type of support that refugees need. We hope that Ukrainian refugees and other newcomers will go to their local library and see the huge range of material on offer to them.’

Thousands of free e-books and audio books

As a means of providing Ukrainians with a large variety of free books, audio and teaching material, as well as entertainment, the multimedia content supplier Odilo (partner of the Dutch online Library) launched a free app for both Android and iOS in April. The app, which is available throughout Europe, has a collection of 3,000 e-books and audio books in every category and language, including 1,700 Ukrainian titles and 500 in English. There is material for both adults and children. Kraal: ‘We hope that everyone, from aid workers to host families, will tell the refugees about this app. It will hopefully provide support, and pleasure or comfort in reading, learning and listening during this period of hardship and uncertainty.’

Help with the language, work and e-government

In addition to the range of free e-books and audio books, the public libraries are also offering refugees the use of numerous other tools and services, Kraal explains. ‘Our doors are open for anyone who wants a quiet place to browse the Internet, work or study. We also often provide online courses, including courses in English. And refugees who want to learn Dutch can go to the library to find out which “Language House” can help them. These Language Houses are often based in libraries and organise low-threshold gatherings, such as Language Cafés.’

Refugees who need help contacting digital government bodies can, like everyone else, go to one of the Digital Government Information Points (IDOs) in the libraries. ‘Our staff can help with questions for the Social Insurance Bank (SVB), the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV), and various other executive agencies,’ says Kraal. ‘This is help that refugees who will stay in the Netherlands for a longer period will eventually need. Bearing this long-term scenario in mind, our partner JobOn is currently developing a programme for Ukrainians who would like to seek employment in the Netherlands. Some libraries will incorporate this information for job-seekers into the collection too.’

Inspirational initiatives

‘Across the country, libraries are launching all kinds of initiatives for inspirational meetings – from Ukrainian storytelling sessions to debate evenings about the political situation. So be sure to take a look at what’s on offer locally,’ adds Kraal. To help with the language barrier between refugees and library staff, libraries have exchanged tool kits with basic information in Ukrainian. Kraal: ‘And the translation apps on our mobile phones and computers will surely come in handy too.’

Questions press

Helen Johnson
Press officer
06 - 42 26 88 11