October is Canadian Library Month. We know the valuable role that libraries play in the lives of newcomers which is why we invest our efforts into bringing awareness of the services and resources within these institutions. Libraries are often the first place that new immigrants visit when they arrive in BC and the first place they connected to their community.
1. Libraries Connect Newcomers to Their Community
Libraries in BC are community hubs. They connect people to information and connect people to people. They provide programs and events that help immigrants settle and connect. They are safe havens for newcomers, providing English conversation groups, story times for caregivers and their children, after-school homework clubs, computer classes, community outreach programs, job search, citizenship test preparation and much more.
Many newcomers find the Library Champions Project helps them bond with other immigrants over their shared experiences. This 3-month volunteer opportunity trains newcomers to reach out to immigrants in their communities to help others find the resources and services needed to settle into their new life in Canada.
“I learned that all over the world people want the same things and they have the same feelings. We are all different but very similar in human things.”— Former Library Champion
2. Libraries Provide Equitable Access to Information and Resources
Libraries in BC serve people of every age, income level, location, ethnicity, and physical ability while providing the full range of information resources needed to live, learn, and work. Libraries provide fair and equitable access to meet people’s needs by:
- Offering collections of books, music, newspapers, magazines, and online resources in 66+ languages
- Providing visitors with devices such as Chromebooks and iPads for loan
- Offering free Wi-Fi 24-7 at all library locations that can be accessed in or near the buildings
- Providing virtual and in-library support to help users access library resources online
- Partnering with settlement organizations to help answer questions about living and working in BC
3. Libraries Protect Your Rights
“Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms . . . thought, belief, opinion, and expression.”— Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Freedom to read can never be taken for granted. Even in Canada, a free country by world standards, books and magazines are banned at the border. Libraries defend our freedom to read and counter censorship attempts that address the voices and lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, people of colour and LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Residents with uncertain or no immigration status and who fear detention, psychological and physical harm, or deportation, when accessing services can use municipal services and do so without fear that a library will ask for and provide information about their immigration status to other institutions or orders of government unless required by law.
As Canada continues to rapidly grow its newcomer populations, it is important that we continue to reach out and connect immigrants to these services and programs. No matter where you live, you can visit any library in BC. Library membership, programs and events, and material loans are all free. To help newcomers understand libraries in BC, NewToBC developed and translated this one-page description of BC libraries into 26 different languages. So, celebrate Canadian Library Month by sharing this amazing resource with 3 people in your network.