Library Archives

A piece of something larger

I took my girls to the Fraser Valley Regional Library the other day. We were in desperate need of new stories to read at their bedtime. It was close to dinnertime, so I made the assumption that we would have the library to ourselves. Instead, I discovered a mother and her daughter whom we’ve not seen for a while – a chance to catch up on each other’s lives. After a brief visit, another mother, who we didn’t know, walked in with her two sons.  We conversed with them, as it goes with parents of small children. Needing to get home for dinner, my girls borrowed their books and we left, content with the time we spent there.

Once the stories were read and the children were in bed, I had a moment to reflect on this experience. I thought of the many ways that a building that houses books, workshops, seminars, events and other great resources for the general public, acts as a community hub. Here is a place where we can walk in and enjoy as much, or as little interaction with others as we wish. We can get lost in our thoughts, or we can be found sharing common ideas, goals, and space. Minds can be expanded and challenged, skills can be learned, and new friendships can be made.

This reflection is likely not a new revelation to you, but it did make me pause. It made me realize how much more I feel connected to my community when I enter the doors of my library. I belong. I fit in. I am a part of this living, breathing community and I am a better person for it. I hope my girls, too, will experience the contentment and belonging I feel here.

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(The girls enjoying the puzzles in the childrens’ area)

Library Connections

Moving from Morocco is no small step. Volunteering as a Library Champion after having been in Canada for only 9 months is also quite bold. Jamila Imrani has done both. She’s learning more about libraries and, in turn, is helping other newcomers adjust to life in BC. We caught up with Jamila recently; here’s what she had to say about this project:

What strikes you most about the differences between the libraries here and the libraries where you’re from?

There is a big difference between libraries here and the ones in my country. To begin with, there is no connection between libraries in my country. In addition to this, The books or what ever you borrow must be returned to the library you borrow from. And a library card is used only for the library mentioned on it.

 Why did you become a Library Champion?

Because I found library very interesting for me, I registered for this project. By learning more, I will help newcomers to get more information for their new life in Canada. Me too I’m a newcomer, and I know very well how its feels to be in a new country. It’s like a fish out of water.

Tell me about the Library Champion Project. What is your role in this?

This project is the best way for newcomers to give them all information they need. As a newcomer, I can learn more new things from this project and then teach it to others. Due to the introduction of this project by one of my classmate, I first felt curious as well as doubtful about all what she said. Later on, I discovered all she told me about libraries is true. After that, I decided to spend lots of time in the library because I found it useful and very interesting. Two months later, I registered for this project and was selected. Now that I’m a Library Champion, my role is to let newcomers know all I’ve known about libraries in BC. Sharing information and introducing libraries to people will facilitate there new life in Canada.

What’s your favourite library here?

To be honest, I like all libraries. But the most ones I spend more time in are New Westminster Library and Vancouver Public Library.

What is the library service that you use the most?

The ESL Learning Centre.

 What is the library service that surprised you most?

All libraries in BC are connected to each other? It’s unbelievable but true.

Register in one library is enough. And by using one library card we can borrow whatever we want from libraries in BC.

What are you most excited about with this project?

It’s amazing to see libraries in BC work together and with newcomers to develop, using Social Media to offer more than access to all kind of services that are available in Libraries in BC. All for free. 

What recommendations do you have for other newcomers to BC?

Don’t panic. Be more confident and go out to attend newcomer’s program so that you can get all information you need. Go to libraries. You are welcome in BC Libraries.

*It sounds to me like Jamila is taking her own advice to heart. She is most welcome in the BC Libraries and she is doing the best at utilizing all services and locations available. 

Ben Hart – NewToBC Pioneer

Ben Hart has been a key player in the Urban Libraries Settlement Project (ULSP). As project coordinator, he worked tirelessly towards the creation of a collaborative library model that better promotes services and resources to help immigrant integration into BC and to Canada. We took a moment to interview Ben about this project and how it came to fruition, as well as what his thoughts are regarding public libraries in BC.

How did you become involved in the NewToBC Project?

I recently completed a Master of Library & Information Studies degree at UBC. While I pursued this degree, I took courses and directed my studies to prepare me for work in a public library setting. My position with NewToBC has offered me an incredible opportunity to collaborate with staff at not one but ten public libraries in the Metro Vancouver area to develop, deliver, and promote some of the important services that public libraries offer to their communities—services for newcomer immigrants.

What direction would you like to see libraries taking in the future to address newcomers to BC? To Canada?

One of the guiding principles of public libraries in BC and in Canada is that everyone is welcome. Thus, libraries find themselves in a unique position to inspire cultural sensitivity and to promote social inclusion. I think that libraries can and should do the important work of bringing people together by developing collections and delivering programming that both celebrate and reflect the diversity of the communities that the libraries serve. By inviting and encouraging everyone to take advantage of these collections and to take part in these programs, libraries foster welcoming and diverse communities.

What do you feel is currently the most under-utilized resource in libraries?

Public libraries employ staff members who have extensive knowledge, subject and technical expertise, and exemplary customer service skills. These staff members can and do assist visitors to the libraries with their information needs. In my mind, library staff are the most under-utilized and the valuable and essential resources that public libraries have.

What has been the largest fundamental shift of libraries in the past 5 years?

More and more, libraries exist as digital and physical spaces. Library catalogues are searchable online. Myriad library resources are now available online and/or in electronic formats. Many libraries have active presences on social media. Library websites and social media pages have become accessible digital spaces where people can commune and interact with library services and with one another.

 What is the biggest challenges that libraries face?

Libraries must actively and persistently raise awareness about and promote the spectrum of services that they provide. Once people find out that libraries offer more than access to information that is readily and easily available on the internet, they are able to see the real value and the importance of public libraries.

What are you most excited about with this project?

NewToBC is all about collaboration. It’s been amazing to watch ten public libraries work together, work with settlement service provider organizations, and work with newcomers to develop, improve upon, and promote library-based settlement services in Metro Vancouver.