A new community partnership is changing lives in New Westminster
The new partnership between UGM New Westminster and the New Westminster Public Library is a perfect example of great minds thinking alike. While UGM New Westminster’s incoming Manager Edith had been pondering the idea of reaching out to the library last year, Community Library Lead Liz was researching new ways for the library to connect with people in the neighbourhood.
“The library has done a very good job serving members of our community who benefit from traditional programs and services,” says Liz of the library’s history. “But there are others in our community for whom there are multiple barriers to accessing the library. We want to reach out to those people.”
With an increased focus on serving marginalized communities, Liz asked whether UGM New Westminster would be open to having her visit on Thursday mornings to offer books, provide technical support, and help connect people with available services. The project kicked off in November of last year, and is already a popular connection point for community members. A typical day for Liz can include referring people to the ID bank, giving out library cards, supporting people with e-readers, helping community members set up a Gmail account, and, of course, sharing books.
“Having any sort of ID, even if it's a library card, is really important,” says Edith. “Especially for our folks, because a lot of people have lost their ID, and getting it back is always a challenge. Even a small card that has your name on it — an official card from somewhere like the library — has value.”
For Liz, the aim of the partnership isn’t necessarily to get more people reading, but instead to build connections. “I recently got a call from a colleague who was downstairs in the children’s department — she said there was a man who was looking for me. It turned out to be someone I knew from my visits to UGM, so I was able to greet him by name and say hello. And he said ‘I brought my buddy with me, I want to get him a library card.’ He felt safe enough to come look for me, and I value that relationship.”
If I'm the bridge to help people feel comfortable coming in through the library doors, and if they have a good experience, then the library becomes their place too. — Liz, Community Library Lead, New Westminster Public Library
The increased availability of library services has been encouraging for UGM New Westminster community members. “Liz is not a typical social worker, she's not from a service provider. She's from the library,” notes Edith. “I think a lot of people appreciate that. Because it means that there is somebody else from the community who wants to reach out to them, and who isn't part of the circle of people they typically see. That means a lot to people, because they feel part of the greater community.”
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