At a recent gathering of the Library Champions, participants spoke about what a difference this program has made in their lives. (Contributed)

Good Reads: Library Champions making a difference

Maple Ridge Public Library collaborating with NewToBC.

Are you an immigrant to Canada or have you ever lived in another country? If so, you know it can be challenging to meet people and settle into life in a new country.

To help ease this transition, Maple Ridge Public Library is collaborating with NewToBC, a provincial organization that helps recent immigrants find their way by connecting them to their local public libraries.

Over the past couple of months, 13 new, permanent residents to Canada have been meeting at Maple Ridge Public Library with a coordinator from NewToBC and staff from the library.

These Library Champions are men and women from 10 different countries who have all chosen to make Maple Ridge their home. Countries of origin include China, Poland, Romania, Iran, Armenia, Iraq, Bangladesh, Ukraine, India, and Syria.

The Library Champions have learned about English learning materials, books and movies in other languages, and online tools, such as Lynda.com, where library cardholders can take free online courses.

Programs such as storytime are great for immigrants with small children, and the library co-hosts a variety of English conversation classes and special community events. The library is also available to meet, relax, study, and make friends.

The Library Champions have become experts in what the library offers.

Now that they know all about Maple Ridge Public Library, the Library Champions have been out in the community talking to friends, family, and acquaintances about the benefits of joining the library. This not only helps the library, but it gives the Champions a reason to make community connections and help others. It gives them an opportunity to practice their English and make a difference.

The Library Champions have been out in the community over the last couple of months promoting Maple Ridge Public Library and making connections. They have spoken to many people, both newcomers and people who have been in Canada for their whole lives. It has been a rewarding experience for both sides.

At a recent gathering of the Library Champions, participants spoke about what a difference this program has made in their lives.

“First I thought libraries are only about books,” said Haya. “Now I know about programs and so many other interesting things. Before I was afraid to enroll because of my English, but you guys made me talk with each other and with people outside. I would like to thank you for amazing program.”

Iwona also had little worries.

“Because everywhere I go, I am the oldest. But here I joined these young people and enjoyed it. This program made us feel talking without fear. I could learn things from Canadian people about beautiful things in the library. I will keep it in my heart.”

So if you have a chance to talk to one of these newcomers, please welcome them and listen to what they have to say – then come visit us at the library.

• To learn more about NewToBC and the Library Champions, visit www.newtobc.ca. To learn about Maple Ridge Public Library programs and services, come by, call us at 604-467-7417 or check out our website at www.fvrl.bc.ca.

Jessica Armstrong is a librarian at Maple Ridge Public Library.

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