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Finding Community through the Library Champions Project

Posted on: January 11, 2023

“Volunteering as a Library Champion connected me to others who were also adapting to life in Canada. While our backgrounds, languages, and countries of origin were different, we shared experiences of immigrating and adapting to a new culture and country.”

Jerome moved from China to Richmond, British Columbia, one year ago. 

“Richmond has a lot of diversity. When I moved here, I asked myself where I wanted to position myself. I could choose to attach myself to a community of people who had the same language as me, or I could get involved in a larger community to gain a deeper understanding of Canadian culture. I want to work with others to make our community and society better. Getting involved in different programs in the community has helped me innumerably.” 

When I joined the Library Champions Project, I realized libraries are community centres. These hubs connect people from all walks of life to information and their community. Yes, there are books, newspapers, and magazines in multiple languages, but there are also workshops, job fairs, cultural events, displays, and settlement resources. Libraries offer specific information for newcomers to help them settle into their communities.

After we learn about library and settlement programs and resources, we are asked to give a presentation to our fellow Library Champions to prepare us to reach out to others in our community to share this information with others. This helps other newcomers connect to their library, their settlement agencies, and their communities. Because I work in finance, I examined my pitch from a cost-savings perspective. My presentation evaluated the free resources that are available through libraries and the potential savings they provide to patrons.

LinkedIn courses, Libby, Overdrive, 3D printing, free courses and programs, books, and online magazines and newspapers add up. I had my audience guess the amount of money they saved per year by having a library membership. On average, people can save approximately $1600 annually from being library card holders. There was a collective “wow” from the group. Our group was very diverse in their backgrounds: a designer, a website developer, and multilingual individuals, and we decided to combine our skills to showcase this to a larger audience through the collaborative development of a website that, coincidentally, was built around Black Friday. It was a huge success. 

This experience helped me better connect to the culture in Canada, which will help me better navigate future opportunities. Before I moved to Canada, I worked in a high-level position, and when I moved here, I expected that I would not get the same level of position, but I do hope to move up with firm steps. I know what I’ve done and what I’m good at, but I need to learn nuances. We have different ways of communicating; we have different working environments. The ways in which we talk and use language are different. This has been a challenge for me, and it should be. I spent 30-plus years in China, and I’ve been here once. I imagine that within 5 to 10 years, I will have a deeper understanding of our Canadian ways and Canadian culture.

I have used my new connections to reach out to others and learn from them. Referrals have provided me with coffee conversations and informational interviews, which have provided me with insights into local markets. I am learning about details that should be included and excluded from my resume. I am getting a better understanding of the finance landscape. I’m grateful for every help I have got, and I’m using my own experiences to help others navigate this as well through my volunteer mentoring with JumpStart Refugee.

I am grateful that I discovered the Library Champions Project. Our facilitator, Nina, was very experienced and gave each of us an opportunity to share our experiences to help us navigate our journeys. The online experience was great. We met together and then broke into small groups where we could have deeper conversations and create connections. This experience has connected me to my new home, to the people here, to the culture, and to new opportunities. I recommend this to any newcomer to BC.