Public libraries are changing. Gone are the days of hushed whispers, dark spaces and crowded shelves. Libraries are now more like community centres where people can find the resources they need.
Take the Toronto Public Library (TPL), which provides a variety of programming to residents of the world’s most diverse city. Two of these amazing initiatives – Community Librarian for Newcomers and Career Coaches in Residence – are supported by the Azrieli Foundation to serve people in transition.
As more refugees and migrants settle in Toronto, libraries are a critical resource in adjusting to life in a new city.
“Sometimes, newcomers come from countries where a public library is alien to them or they are skeptical of any government institution,” says Amanda French, Manager, Social Development at TPL.
Moving beyond the library walls, TPL’s newly hired Community Librarian for Newcomers will be embedded in community-based agencies. From there, the librarian will reach out to newcomers to gauge their needs – from skills training to healthcare questions – and offer the programs they need or refer them to other organizations.
“Providing services right in the community breaks down barriers and connects newcomers to resources,” says French.
At the Career Coach in Residence program, Kadine Cooper works to connect with people, particularly young adults aged 18 to 29 from vulnerable groups, who want to enter or re-enter the workforce.
“To share something that improves their job search, boosts their confidence or just makes them feel seen and heard is fulfilling,” says Cooper, one of several coaches teaching, supporting and mentoring participants to achieve their career goals.
“Career coaches like Kadine connect young adults with the skills and knowledge to succeed in today’s workforce,” says Lisa Heggum, Manager, Youth Services at TPL. “And funders like the Azrieli Foundation are fulfilling opportunities to improve their lives.”