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Building Networks through the Library Champions Project

Posted on: December 5, 2022

“You get to meet people from different cultures and backgrounds – which ultimately brings you closer to the Canadian cultural mosaic and true Canadian values.” Here is how Library Champions helped Ankit get settled into his new Canadian life.

A Volunteer Opportunity for Newcomers to Canada

Ankit is a newcomer to Canada who volunteered with the North Shore Libraries* as a Library Champion. He moved to the North Shore in March of 2020, just before the lockdown. Before moving to Canada, he worked at a tech startup in India. It didn’t work out as hoped, which prompted he and his wife to explore the possibility of moving for a fresh start. Canada proved to be the most promising and welcoming country and the pair decided to take the chance to move and start again. Their efforts paid off. Ankit’s wife got a job offer in North Vancouver where they currently reside, and he has continued his work in software solutions. 

Sharing Information about Library and Settlement Resources

“I came to know about the Library Champions Project from Twitter. Someone in my feed mentioned NewToBC in a tweet.” The Library Champions Project (LCP) is a three-month volunteer program for new immigrants. During the time of the project, Library Champions are trained to conduct outreach to other new immigrants. Training sessions focus on building communication, presentation, and outreach skills and on gaining an understanding of the range of programs, services, and resources that are provided by libraries and immigrant and community service agencies. “I learned a lot about the library resources and events,” reflects Ankit. 

Connecting with Local Communities 

“I will be honest – I used to believe that physical libraries were outdated, given the increasing trend of online content consumption. But after taking this program, I realized that I was wrong. In BC, libraries are more than just book-banks; they are community hubs. Libraries have created vibrant local communities where members can find events, programs, and materials, free of charge. They have something for everyone and, in fact, many helpful things if you are a newcomer,” says Ankit. 

Networking with Others

Many people who volunteer for the LCP find shared experiences in their settlement journey. Ankit reflects “I met people from different cultural backgrounds and heard about their immigration stories; it was inspiring.” He continues, “for some this can be the first step towards exploring other cultures and debunking stereotypes.” The LCP is a great place to build a network.

Collaborating to Spread Awareness to Other Newcomers 

Ankit, and other North Shore Library Champions were examining how to best share libraries to others in their communities. One team member proposed the idea of sharing the potential cost savings a library membership creates. After working through potential savings, as well as the other benefits of having a library card, Ankit spent a day building a website: The Biggest Black Friday Deal is your free Library Card. The initial traction of this had “more than a thousand people trying the cost-saving calculator in the first 48 hours of the launch.” He credits his LCP Facilitator, Nina Miller, with helping in the promotion. 

Settling into Canadian Life

Ankit found the NewToBC website shortly after arriving to Canada. “I used to come back to the website for settlement info like banking, savings, investments, health care and daily life related questions. It was a one-stop portal for all the information we needed in the initial days.” Settling is not without challenges, “finding a family doctor was challenging – especially due to COVID,” Ankit found. Additionally, due to COVID and the resulting lockdowns, it was hard to meet others resulting in “almost zero social life.” Some things his new country were surprising: “Canadians have a very liberal attitude towards marijuana.” All in all, Ankit has found “Canadian society genuinely multicultural and very welcoming. I appreciated it as soon as I landed here.” “Also, I wished we knew about poutine – Eating it the first time was love at first bite.”

The NewToBC team is recruiting new volunteers for libraries throughout BC. If you’re a newcomer to Canada who would like to connect with other newcomers, learn about library and settlement programs and services, and share this information with others, we would love to meet with you. Please sign up for an information session to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. 

* North Shore Library Champions serve the North Vancouver City Library, the North Vancouver District Public Library, and the West Vancouver Memorial Library.