Library branch manager experiences Cologne in cultural exchange program

Posted on March 17, 2017

As part of a cultural exchange program, Eagle Branch manager Mary Agnes Hylton spent two weeks immersed in the library system of Cologne, Germany, one of Indianapolis’s Sister Cities. While exploring the many great offerings of the city, Hylton saw how the Cologne Library is responding to the needs of refugee populations.

Cologne is experiencing an influx of refugees fleeing places like Syria, and services in support of them are growing in step. The Cologne Library has dedicated a special space called the Sprachraum to teach refugees the local language and customs. Refugees are welcome to join assimilation groups to learn about Germany and prepare themselves to take the German citizenship exams. Librarians and a network of volunteers support the programs. Hylton was able to participate in these activities and learn many useful ideas for similar challenges that Indianapolis faces.

To help refugees integrate into a new culture, it is important for Library staff to have proper cultural training and multilingual experience, as well as enough funding to expand support for collections and services that help refugees. It was an eye-opening experience for Hylton, and she has brought back a wealth of knowledge and skills to share with staff and patrons at the Library. The Library Foundation supported this special opportunity for the Library.

This story originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of "Imagine," our donor newsletter. Become a Friend of the Library to receive your copy!