How Libraries Can Support Survivors of Domestic Abuse: Part 2

This is the second in a two-part interview with Holly Case, a Senior Team Officer for Surrey County Council Libraries in the UK. Beyond Access spoke with Holly about her libraries’ award-winning work to serve survivors of domestic abuse in their community, which goes far beyond reading material to include outreach programs, self-esteem workshops, and information sessions. Read Part One on our blog.

What lessons have you learned working on this project?

Accepting (and then constantly explaining to everyone else) that sometimes the victories might seem small but are actually life changing. During Surrey’s Domestic Abuse Awareness Week we run information and advice drop-in sessions in some of our largest libraries with the outreach services. We never have huge amounts of people approaching the stands to talk to the outreach workers, mostly because people are embarrassed and see it as a sign of admission. However, we are now finding that people will approach the outreach services afterwards and say that they have seen their information in the library, which is amazing! This year, we had two instances of disclosure (someone actively seeking help) at the drop in sessions, which is when you can really see that the work is having a profound effect on lives.

What is going differently about the program than you expected?

It has definitely expanded in ways I hadn’t expected. I had initially thought that the core part of the project (books and web presence) would be the main crux of it, but actually it has evolved to include so much more. We are a member of the Surrey Against Domestic Abuse multi agency group (which includes partners like the Police, the outreach services, the community safety unit and the district and borough councils). This has given us the chance to be directly involved with most of the key communications projects around domestic abuse. Libraries have also become an integral part of Surrey’s Domestic Abuse Awareness Week.

How do people learn about your services?

We have a poster and leaflet, which are available in all of our libraries as well as other points of contact. We also have our webpage, and we update our followers on both Twitter and Facebook.

Part of my job is to speak to health care professionals on the frontline to let them know about our work. We are always trying to raise awareness of our work and the work of our partners.

How can other libraries help domestic violence victims?

All libraries can and should try to help anyone affected by domestic abuse! It’s as easy as having publicity from your local domestic abuse outreach service or refuge available in your branch, or using social media to link to advice and support. You can take part in local, national and international days to support the end of violence, like the One Billion Rising event. Pull together books you already have, including memoirs. Invite your local outreach services and refuges to use the library as a space for survivors to meet or for legal advice sessions. Run events specifically for survivors or children of survivors. The possibilities are endless!