Social inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers includes addressing their information needs. This research seeks to examine the role of public libraries in this process through the analysis of public librarians’ perceptions. Based on the constructivist paradigm, the case study method, and the semi-directive interview survey technique, 16 public municipal libraries in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (Portugal) are studied. The results highlight that these libraries do not identify forced migrants as their users. Still, they consider that the information needs and behaviors and the use of libraries by these communities are similar to those of economic migrants, with emphasis on the relevance of free access to the internet, foreign language resources, Portuguese language and digital literacy courses, and help to interact with online platforms. The gaps include the existence of few Portuguese courses for foreigners, a limited practice in assisting with job and housing searches, promoting health literacy, and inclusive collaboration with schools, as well as space, financial, and human resources constraints. To overcome these difficulties, librarians emphasize the motivation to fulfill the inclusive social mission of the public library, the universal accessibility and informal environment of the library, and its action to promote social cohesion and social capital. The respondents consider that the mission of public libraries is adjusted to the goal of social inclusion of forced migrants, but that there is room for improvement in the training of librarians. This research points to the need for more initiative-taking public library collaboration with existing inclusion networks. In conclusion, we seek to alert to the urgency of the involvement of Portuguese public libraries in the social inclusion of forced migrants, which will also contribute to their institutional legitimization.

DOI: 10.1177/09610006221146549
ISSN: 0961-0006