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Thursday, December 7, 2023

How Public Libraries Support Newcomers to Canada

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For many Canadians, public libraries play an essential role in daily life. Canada’s first public libraries opened in 1883. One of the oldest publicly funded institutions in the country, libraries have evolved into pillars of society, providing equitable access to thousands of free resources and offering a wide array of services for users. The primary purpose of a public library is to address the needs and wants of the communities they serve. For new Canadians, arriving in an unfamiliar country can be a daunting and isolating experience. Community spaces such as the library are vital in helping them settle into their new home. Below are a few ways library services help to support newcomers.

Use your library card to borrow from collections: Library collections include thousands of physical and digital resources to reference or borrow from. With a library card, users can take out books, films, periodicals and other materials free of charge. The Toronto Public Library is one of Canada’s largest public library systems and provides an expansive multilingual collection serving the city’s culturally diverse communities. Considered one of the country’s largest multilingual collections, you can borrow books and films in languages ranging from Amharic to Yiddish. Visit the TPL’s webpage to learn more about and borrow from the collection.

Register for programs: Many libraries offer a variety of programs and classes. Programming offered specifically for Canadian immigrants includes English Second Language classes, citizenship study groups, English conversation circles, business support workshops, personal finance, and activities for the whole family. Most programs require a library membership to register and participate. Programs are a valuable and free way to engage with others in the community while having the chance to gain new skills, discover hobbies, and expand your knowledge.

Take advantage of career and settlement support services: Settlement support includes connecting Canadian newcomers to partner settlement agencies, finding employment, getting a driver’s license, aiding in skill development and much more. With a library membership, digital resources such as LinkedIn Learning, eLearning courses, citizenship tests and ESL training are also available. Your library card gives you many tools to succeed in finding and building a career through programming and services, including resume building, job search support, and entrepreneur workshops.

Public libraries have come a long way since their conception in the early 1880s. Today libraries are considered community centres, essential for providing local communities with equitable access to everything from books to technology to arts and culture. Libraries also play a vital role in connecting and familiarizing newcomers to their communities through their services. The best part is that all the services and resources provided by public libraries are free to enjoy with a library card membership.

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