The Library Settlement Partnerships (LSP) offers a unique and innovative newcomer information service in 11 communities throughout Ontario. This service includes one-on-one settlement information and referrals, group information sessions, and community outreach. Over 60 newcomer settlement workers from 23 agencies work out of the 49 branches of 11 public libraries in communities with high newcomer populations. Services are provided in a variety of languages, based on community needs.
“When I come to the library I know I have someone to talk to, not just [to] get information regarding the resources and programs in the library.”
Serving newcomers in public libraries enhances accessibility by: increasing the number of service points (with 49 branches currently offering the service); increasing the hours of service as libraries are open on evenings and weekends.
Clients have been involved in planning the service by providing feedback, particularly on group programs of interest and by volunteering in large numbers.
Stakeholder collaboration has been extremely important to the LSP, as well as partnerships with the settlement sector, public libraries, and CIC. Through this initiative, the sector brings its extensive experience with newcomer issues and services via the 23 participating agencies. The 11 public library systems contribute expertise in information provision, as well as in community education and leisure activities, to facilitate newcomer inclusion and quality of life. Each of the 11 communities has a standing committee responsible for deciding, implementing, and evaluating the service in that city. This standing committee has representation from participating settlement agencies, the public library, and CIC.
Settlement agencies are accountable to CIC through their contribution agreements. Libraries are accountable to the partnership through their participation in standing committee activities and in agreeing to abide by the terms of reference and operational guidelines developed by each local program. Libraries are also accountable to upper management and their public library boards. All are accountable to the public at large, which is the constituency of the public library, and newcomer clients in particular, for the standards of service and programs offered. There is continuous evaluation of direct client service, group programs and information sessions.
Outcomes have been extremely positive for clients. More clients are eligible for the service so that many who would not otherwise have access have been able to make use of full settlement services. Referrals to library resources and programming are routine and extend the possibilities for newcomers and their children to make use of the libraries' extensive physical services (meeting space, computers and computer training, etc) as well as the multitude of resources (physical and electronic) in first languages and ESL. Libraries engage in many programs for children and adults which have been enhanced by the LSP to be more inclusive of newcomers. The program also includes extensive outreach activities which help make clients more aware of what the library has to offer newcomers resulting in an increased capacity and understanding of public libraries in serving newcomers, making this essential community service more relevant and inclusive.
“Whenever I have tried to find help or assistance, I have either been given names and telephone numbers of some agencies, or given a few websites where I could get information from. But this is the first place where I got all those, but in addition, I got to connect with another human being, a counsellor who could help me. ... In addition I got to know where my children could go for homework help and where I can get computer classes.”
The program is extremely transferable as its main funding source is CIC and public libraries exist in every newcomer-receiving community. This is evidenced by the number of communities participating in the program, which has increased from three to 11. Moreover, interest has already been expressed by Alberta (Calgary) and Quebec to test the model in their jurisdictions.
- Service Providers
- Twenty-three settlement service agencies throughout Ontario
- Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
- Brampton, Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Markham, Ottawa, Richmond Hill, Toronto, Vaughan, Waterloo, and Windsor, ON
- Year of Launch
- Languages of Delivery
- English, French, and an estimated 23 third languages are spoken by newcomer clients
- Newcomer Groups Served
- All immigrants, refugees, and other newcomers
- Expected Results
- Information and Orientation (Newcomers make informed decisions about their settlement and understand life in Canada)
Welcoming Communities (Newcomers receive help to establish social and professional networks so they are engaged and feel welcomed in their communities)
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