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Social Inclusion Audit and Toolkit for Local Libraries

Multiple cities
Canada

 

The Social Audit Tool developed by the Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) consists of 12 questions framed as outcome statements. For each of these questions, a library receives a score between 0 and 4 that provides an assessment of its capacity to meet the requirements for social inclusion in that area. There are three sets of indicators:

  • Indicators of openness provide an indication of how well the library knows its community;
  • Indicators of intentionality provide an indication of how well the library reinforces the principles of social inclusion and how well it integrates these principles into policies and programs in both the short- and long-term; and
  • Indicators of inclusion provide an indication of how well the library has removed barriers to inclusion.

The project started in 2008 and was completed in 2010.

The CULC defines social inclusion as “the participatory, authentic, and accountable manner in which institutions uphold and reinforce the principles of access, equity and, as a result, social inclusion for all.” Its Statement on Diversity and Inclusion outlines its policy objectives in the area of inclusion:

  • Canada’s urban public libraries recognize that a diverse and pluralistic society is central to our country’s identity. Public institutions, including public libraries, have a responsibility to contribute to a culture that recognizes and celebrates this diversity. Libraries can help to encourage an attitude of inclusion by ensuring that all residents of Canada receive public library service that is respectful. Canada’s large urban public libraries recognize and will energetically affirm the dignity of those they serve, regardless of capabilities, or personal wealth. All Canadian residents should be able to seek information and engage in personal discovery free from any attempt by others to impose values, customs, or beliefs.[1]

The beneficiaries of the Social Inclusion Audit Toolkit are both the libraries and their clienteles. The libraries develop closer relationships with their clients as well as a clearer understanding of the barriers to inclusion and the steps that must be taken to remove these barriers. For the libraries’ clienteles, the benefits are more equitable access to services and information, a more welcoming environment in which to obtain information and services, and a greater awareness of the resources available.

To become familiar with the groups in the community that are currently facing barriers to inclusion, each library is encouraged to assess the demographic profile of its community, to define the target group upon which it will focus its efforts, and to implement a series of focus groups, stakeholder interviews, and surveys to understand how the target community group uses the library and its services. The Social Inclusion Audit tool also provides information on how to engage in community outreach, how to establish a community advisory committee, and how to assess and increase the diversity of the library’s board of directors, staff, and volunteers.

The Social Inclusion Audit Toolkit is free to access online at the CULC’s website (http://www.culc.ca/about/) and at its own dedicated website (http://www.siatoolkit.com), and is also available in hardcopy at a price of C$109.

Total expenses to develop the Social Inclusion Audit and Toolkit were about C$38,000. Sources of funding were two private foundations (the Laidlaw Foundation and the Wellesley Institute) and the CULC’s own operating budget.

Individual libraries can use the Social Inclusion Audit and Toolkit to score themselves or to work with a neighbouring library to do reciprocal scoring. With an established baseline on the social inclusiveness of the library and its practices, the comprehensive toolkit can be used to track progress and improve the library’s score. However, some libraries may be uncomfortable with the participatory process that must be engaged in with marginalized groups in order to carry out the social inclusion audit. Sometimes it is difficult to maintain contact with persons from the marginalized groups, especially if inadequate resources are allocated for transportation, child care, and food/refreshments to support their involvement.