Library Archives

New Beginnings with Richmond Public Library

Starting Out in a New Country

I proposed the idea of immigrating to Canada to my husband and daughters many years ago, but they felt Shanghai was their home. Fast forward to 2009, my family and I visited Toronto, Montreal, Victoria, Vancouver, and Richmond. This trip changed their mind. They were attracted to the friendly people, the good education system, and the beauty that this country had to offer.

New beginnings at the Richmond Public Library

Shelly Gu, the author

My part-time job for an organization in Ontario helped us obtain our Visa. When I mentioned to my employer that I thought of moving to Canada, they applied for an AEO (Arranged Employment Opinion), and my immigration visa approved me as a short-term Skilled Worker.

Since I had a part-time job in Ontario, I originally thought of settling in Toronto. I was advised that it was not necessary to work in that location. As well, I heard that Toronto was cold! During our previous visit to Canada, we enjoyed Vancouver and Richmond the most. After I was awarded my visa in 2013, we visited the Vancouver area in the 2014 Chinese New Year to choose a city to settle in.

We had a good friend in Richmond who had lived there for ten years and made the decision to move nearby so that our families could be close together and help each other out. It was the right decision. Richmond has good weather, nice organizations, it is convenient, and the people are friendly; it is just ideal in every way. The biggest surprise for me moving to Richmond is that there are so many Chinese people living here. You can easily get by without speaking English.

Settling Into a New Home

I discovered the Richmond Public Library’s (RPL) Library Champion Project through my husband’s classmate who participated in this project. Through this, I was able to learn about the services that the library provided and introduce this to my friends and neighbours. Many of them, like me, were so excited to discover more about their libraries. There are so many activities and services to attract people to the libraries and most are free! I shared information from the Richmond Public Library WeChat with my friends. When talking to other parents when dropping off/picking up my children at school, I found this a good conversation starter when meeting new people. We all enjoy the many lectures that our libraries have to offer. They are so useful and engaging!

The libraries in Shanghai are bigger than those here. I have a feeling that the larger libraries, such as the Shanghai Library or Shanghai Pudong Library have more books compared with Vancouver Public Library or Richmond Public Library, but they do not have the many programs, lectures, and free services that we have here. The main function of libraries in Shanghai is access to newspapers, books, and checking data. Here we can borrow many more items per person than in libraries in China.

Balancing the Old and the New

When we moved here, I missed my parents the most. My parents were nearing 80 years old and did not want to come with us. They lived with my family for long time, and they were very sad when we moved to Canada. Each time when we came back, they were so happy, but at the time of saying goodbye, my mother would cry and be sad for long time. She passed away two years ago, and I miss her very much. I wonder, if we had not moved to Canada, would my mom have lived longer?

My father came to stay with us for three months after my mom passed away. He likes Canada and is satisfied with our life here, but he needed his own home, his neighbours, and his friends so much that he decided to stay in China.

If I were to do it again, maybe I would apply for immigration later, when my parents no longer needed us, or when we found a suitable business we could do in Canada, but for my kids, I think it was the best decision to move to Canada as early as possible.

New Beginnings at the Richmond Public Library

Shelly and her family in their new home

Giving Back with Community Library Programs

My wife and I landed in Vancouver in 2010, after my son studied at a secondary school in Surrey. At the time, he lived with a very kind host family, but sometimes felt alone, so we made the decision to move to Burnaby to be together as a family. Shortly after, I discovered the Burnaby Public Library and all the community programs in place to help newcomers like me.

Connection and Confidence in Your New Home

This was where I got my first non-government-issued card: a library card. I feel at home in the library; in China, I was an academic researcher and journalist. The books connected me to my new home, and the programs gave me confidence to venture out into my new community. In 2014, I applied to become a Library Champion and invited other newcomers to the library to help them gain the confidence I was able to find there.

While I was a Library Champion, I learned of an opportunity to volunteer for the Burnaby Public Library Board.  I applied, failed,  applied again the following year, and was lucky enough to be selected. Ever since, I have served the Burnaby Public Library Board and Planning and Advocacy Committee.

Our team is great, and the board members are very professional, accountable and friendly. We work together to ensure our library connects with the increasingly diverse community of Burnaby by creating a new strategic plan for the next few years, initiating an operating budget and planning many projects. Our hope is to create a welcoming space for newcomers and ethnic communities.

Resources for Everyone

There are a lot of resources in libraries to suit the many personal and community needs. For newcomers like me, I feel that the library is the best place to practice ESL. Also, libraries are effective hubs to network or attend job fairs. You can grow your confidence in BC libraries through the variety of workshops and resources available.

This year I was honoured to become an InterLINK representative in the role of governance and planning. The InterLINK system in BC is quite amazing. This library service supports public libraries through resource sharing and collaborative programs. For example, patrons can borrow books from one library, and return them to any other library in the Lower Mainland. It is quite convenient. I am so grateful for the opportunity to help shape the future of our libraries.

Dreams and the Future

In addition to my roles with BC public libraries, I am revisiting my first career as a freelance writer focusing on oral history – my first degree was in Art and History. I am a columnist of Chinese magazines in Hongkong, Beijing and Shanghai, and I have published many reports and a few books. My dream is to write articles and books in English in the near future. I am taking advantage of library resources, especially the many Chinese books available in the public libraries, to finish my first oral history book. I plan to publish in Shanghai and Hongkong this year.

Burnaby Library Champion - Chris Dong

Chris Dong – Library Champion

Before my move to Canada, I looked forward to making a different life for myself. I think the biggest challenge for me was balancing how much I should hold onto my past with how well I connect to this bright future in my new home. My roots include ties with my families, old friends, past careers and traditional cultures. After living in Canada for years, I think I have found this balance.

I love the diversity in Burnaby. It is a great community with different ethnic groups who are able to celebrate their food, traditions and culture while enjoying their daily lives together. I believe freedom of humanity is the core value for Canadians and newcomers.

Recently, I realized that life is short, and the clock is ticking. It is better to follow our hearts, and act on it. Do what you really want and enjoy what you truly love. Don’t hesitate. Whatever it is that your heart desires, just do it right now.


What’s in a Library: Free Programs and Resources for the Community

Surrey Library

Libraries are community hubs where people can connect with neighbours and make use of free learning opportunities. They are education centres where learning is plentiful and free, employment training centres where people can get help with their job needs, online databases with newspapers and magazines from all over the world, and so much more than the book-lending institutions of the past.

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