NewToBC pilot project: Libraries help immigrants integrate into their new Metro Vancouver communities

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TEN Metro Vancouver public library systems have joined forces to launch an innovative pilot project that will help newcomers integrate more quickly into their new communities. The project, titled NewToBC, will enhance, support and promote settlement services available in libraries and through the many community-based immigrant-serving agencies, for people who are new to BC.
“NewToBC is an extremely important project. Staff at BC libraries have found that they are serving an increasing number of newcomers every year, particularly in urban centres,” says Michael Burris, Executive Director, Public Library InterLINK.
 
“Today, public libraries play an important role in the settlement and integration of newcomers. In fact, they are often a first point of contact for newcomers and immigrants as they adjust to their new home.”
 
Through the NewToBC pilot project, newcomers will be encouraged to visit their local libraries to get information, support and help on a variety of topics.
 
“Whether you’re looking for a job, activities for your kids or want to practice your English, the main message we want new immigrants to know is that libraries are for everyone,” says Burris. “We’ve heard so many stories from newcomers who wish they’d discovered sooner what libraries have to offer.”
 
Edel Toner-Rogala, Chief Librarian of Burnaby Public Library says, “Libraries are the heart of our communities. Our staff connect people to the resources and services they need.” NewToBC emphasizes partnership between the libraries and the numerous settlement services available in the community, and works to support the work of those agencies, not duplicate them.
 
The NewToBC project is made up of three main components to help achieve the goal of making newcomers feel at home in BC. They include:
 
* The Library Champions Project is about immigrants engaging with other immigrants to raise awareness about the range of services and resources available for newcomers at public libraries. This community engagement project recruits, trains, equips, deploys, and supports newcomer “Library Champions” who share information about public libraries and about other settlement services with other newcomers in their communities. The project emerged after consultations identified that many new immigrants are either not using library services or have a limited view of how the library can support their settlement and integration.
 
* The NewToBC.ca website serves as both a “library link” for newcomers as well as a tool for staff at public libraries and other settlement service providers. The first-of-its-kind website offers easily accessible and detailed information about each of the NewToBC libraries. The website promotes programs and services for newcomers offered in public libraries and through service providers.
 
* The Library Staff Settlement Training Program informs and educates NewToBC library staff about settlement issues encountered by newcomers along with the barriers that keep new immigrants from using the library. Library staff are trained and provided with information, tools, and resources to help them better assist newcomers, provide referrals to community services, promote cultural sensitivity, and foster social inclusivity.