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Opening the Library Doors in Welcome

Libraries across Canada are opening their doors to refugees, particularly those who are arriving from Syria. By expanding their services and collections, libraries are providing multi-lingual resources and practical support to help refugees settle in. On we’re assembling refugee resources from libraries across Canada, as well as news articles and social media stories.

Library Journal reports in Public Libraries Support Refugees that Windsor and Calgary are hosting information sessions and connecting with immigrants and refugees with increased services for children.

CEOs Kitty Pope of Windsor Public Library and Steven Kraft of Guelph Public Library have spoken to the media about preparing for an influx of clients. Once new arrivals have food and housing, the library is often one of the first places they visit.


CBC News (December 1, 2015) –  Syrian Refugees: Windsor libraries brace for refugee clients

Guelph Mercury (January 4, 2016) –  Guelph Public Library an important resource for Syrian refugees

In Ontario, the Ontario Library Association (OLA) and the Ontario Public Libraries Association (OPLA) Council has put together a document – How Public Libraries Can Welcome Syrian Refugees – with ideas you can share with your library.

For Newcomers, the Library is About More Than Just Books: The Toronto Public Library is offering a pilot program called MAP (Museum and Arts Pass) which allows families to borrow a pass to visit selected museums and attractions in Toronto for free. They have also increased their collection of Armenian, Arabic, and Kurdish language books. TPL continues to support newcomers with English language classes, resume-building workshops, and newspapers and DVDs in other languages.

Libraries key to Simcoe County immigrants’ success In this article by Jennie Dunning for the Barrie Advance (Ontario), libraries are publicized as a “welcome hub” for immigrants to talk and connect, and access materials and services in their own language.

Toronto Public Library: New to Canada
How to use the library, online tools, practice citizenship tests, and links to books and movies in various languages.

* Kitchener Public Libraries are seeking donations (through Canada Helps) to fund translators, additional programming, and language support.

* London Public Library – Conversational English Programs
A number of programs are available through London Public Library, including conversational English circles for newcomers to Canada.

* Whitby Public Library provides a hub for newcomer information and resources. Coming up soon: Welcome to Ontario/Durham Region Information Fair & Community BBQ, Friday, August 26th, 2016 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and
Newcomer Orientation Week (NOW) for high school students,  August 29 – 31, 2016 from 8:30 am – 2:00 pm

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland & Labrador Public Libraries have arranged Some Warm Welcome, a program that asks residents to knit and crochet scarves, hats, and mitts for refugees, and to write a note of welcome to accompany the cozy gift.

*Gander Library Seeking Arabic Books to Welcome Syrian RefugeesThe Newfoundland library is seeking donations to stock the shelves with literature written in Arabic.
Courtney Penney, Regional Librarian for Central Newfoundland, said she hopes that stocking the library Arabic literature will help the Syrian refugees with their assimilation into Canadian Culture.

Nova Scotia

Annapolis Valley Regional Library
Nova Scotians can find information for how they can help Syrian refugees at the Annapolis Valley’s Refugee Support Information page. It includes local resource suggestions and a list of silent books (books without written words) from the library catalogue.


* Strathcona County Library offers Settlement Services to help people adjust to life in Canada. The Newcomer Connector is a free drop-in on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month to learn and connect with fellow newcomers.

The demand for English classes has risen with the influx of refugees, and Edmonton refugees needing to learn English face extended wait-times of three to four months. Several organisations have been working together to increase the number of newcomer classes, as well as introduce a new class, ‘survival English,’ offered by Catholic Social Services, to those awaiting permanent lodging.

British Columbia

On the West coast, the Greater Victoria Public Library’s Settlement and Orientation section of the public library website lists digital resources for newcomers to Canada, from legal aid to tourism, business and education.

Burnaby Public Library lists resources and information on obtaining a library card, and has also listed resources for refugee assistance, from legal issues to housing and health.

Sugary sweetness for the Syrian refugee cause Kate Lyon, teacher librarian, organized a cupcake fundraiser in Prince Rupert to sponsor Syrian families. Once she had peoples’ attention with sugar, she shared information about refugees and the crisis, and how students could become global citizens. School libraries were encouraged to create displays that focused on world religions, Canadian culture, and family diversity.

NewToBC is the Library Link for Newcomers. It ‘aims to recognize, promote, support and sustain settlement and integration services provided by public libraries and other settlement service providers.’

NewToBC has also posted a Syrian population profile created by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, which is intended to increase awareness and understanding of Syrian refugees.


Do you know of a Canadian library with a resource, program, or service geared to supporting refugees? We’d be happy to add it to this list! Please e-mail the details to
. Thank you for your contributions.

LAST EDIT: 21 August 2016

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