Libraries in Canada Offer Knowledge, Entertainment, and Hope
Libraries in Canada offer much more than knowledge and entertainment. For new immigrants, these institutions are also catalysts of belonging, hope, and success.
When I was a newcomer in Canada, I frequently visited public libraries. I enjoyed my visits so much that I own cards for Langley, Surrey, and Vancouver library systems.
Here, I was able to:
Do my job search-related activities
I spent a chunk of my time doing job searches on their computers. Of course, this can be done at home. But, the library environment somehow boosted my productivity.
I was also able to gain industry and market insights from their local business reports.
Like many immigrants, investing in a high-quality printer was not on my priority list. So, I printed copies of my resumes in libraries for only a few cents per page.
Libraries also gave me free entertainment. For example, I borrowed DVDs of Hollywood and Filipino movies. They have many titles in various languages to choose from.
I moved to Canada alone. Thus, being in the presence of people cheered me up. Also, visiting the beautiful libraries is like going on a short trip. My visits to the award-winning Vancouver Central and Surrey City Centre libraries were always special.
Now that I have been in Canada for a decade, I still visit libraries. Recently, I have been accessing LinkedIn Learning for free using my library card. So, I am able to work on my professional development while saving $20+ to $30+ on monthly fees.
Services Offered By Libraries in Canada
Public libraries in Canada come in all shapes and sizes. Various systems may offer slightly different services but they all cover the basics for their community.
Here is a list of services and some examples from various public libraries in Canada.
Lend learning tools and entertainment materials such as books, CDs and audiobooks, and DVDs
According to the Vancouver Public Library (VPL) website, patrons borrowed nearly 9.5 million physical and digital items last year. This 9-story library has a huge collection of unique items such as census and government documents, drama, indigenous, legal, and many more. It even has a neat collection of manga books and DVDs. Aside from books, central VPL also lends musical instruments or even voltage metres.
Offer access to online learning tools including LinkedIn Learning
VPL subscribes to thousands of online books, audiobooks, magazine and newspaper articles, indexes, and other recreational and research resources. Halifax Public Libraries offer an extensive collection of eBooks, audiobooks, e-magazines, and videos. It even gives access to a compilation of business plans by entrepreneurs seeking funding for small businesses. Both libraries provide free access to LinkedIn Learning. This means you will have access to thousands of online learning materials for various topics sans the monthly fee.
Give access to computers, the internet, and printers, and other resources
Using your library card, you can use their computers for a limited time. Wifi is available free of charge. The Calgary Public Library allows you to take home a Chromebook or laptop for up to eight weeks.
Excellent quality printing and photocopying are available for a small fee. Scanning is also free.
Organize classes, workshops, and community events
Canadian public libraries are hubs for community events for all ages.
The Ottawa Public Library has a wide range of interesting events such as Babytime for babies aged 0-18 months and a parent or caregiver. They likewise have Family Storytime for children of all ages and a parent or caregiver. They even organize interest groups such as Greenboro Knitting Group for knitters and Mixed Media Art for Seniors for those who want to learn the basics of abstract art painting using acrylics.
The Newton Branch of the Surrey Library System has a Sweaters and Stories Outdoor English Conversation Club. This club offers a way for its attendees to practice speaking English in a fun and friendly group environment.
Offer services for newcomers to Canada
Services for newcomers are available for free in Canadian libraries. These include English language learning, settlement services, and citizenship exam preparation.
The City of Surrey Libraries have information on settlement agencies in Surrey, BC. They also have resources on community services including low-cost and free community activities, food and meals, health, housing, and legal programs.
VPL has similar services for newcomers. Its Skilled Immigrant InfoCentre offers online and in-person resources for job search, career exploration, and business start-up.
The Winnipeg Public Library page has programs that you can join before you arrive and after you arrive in Manitoba. It even has a map for newcomers that include arrival and settlement supports, immigrant settlement workers, housing, and many more.
Provide space for public use
Meeting rooms, study rooms, conference centres, and even recording studios may be available for free or a reasonable fee. Vancouver’s Central Library has an Inspiration Lab where you can record professional-quality audio and video clips. You can also use their digitization stations to convert photos, audio cassettes, and videotapes into digital formats.
Presents a space to relax
Libraries in Canada are not just for learning, entertainment, and community building. Many of the libraries are housed in beautiful structures that offer a sanctuary for the mind, body, and soul.
The Destination Canada website included the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch, Centre d’archives de Montréal, Halifax Central Library, and Library of Parliament in its list of Canada’s most beautiful libraries. The Central Branch of VPL was again mentioned by Travel and Leisure in its list of Beautiful Libraries Around the World Every Booklover Should Visit. The Literary Hub listed The Surrey City Centre Library in its list of 18 of the World’s Most Striking Libraries.
So, how do you gain access to these services?
These services are typically available to those who have a library card. To apply for a card, you will need:
- A valid photo ID such as a driver’s license, passport, permanent residence card or school ID.
- Proof of address such as a bank statement, recent income tax assessment or utility bill.
Libraries in Canada offer unlimited resources for knowledge and entertainment. But they are also a source of belonging, hope, and success.
If you haven’t yet, join one now.