Power of books brings together northeast Calgary community

Punjabi and Urdu books sit alongside Canadian classics like Anne of Green Gables on a table at the side of a residential street in the community of Saddle Ridge.

Not-for-profit’s first multi-cultural outdoor library proving to be big hit

Residents of Saddle Ridge are using the outdoor library as a gathering place, as well as a place to grab a new book (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Punjabi and Urdu books sit alongside Canadian classics like Anne of Green Gables on a table at the side of a residential street in the community of Saddle Ridge.

Along with a neat row of whitewashed mini-library boxes and a few comfy chairs, it's become a gathering place in the community.

The community library is bringing together people of all nationalities, faiths, sexes and ages in Saddle Ridge who can grab a new read or stop and chat a while.

Syed Najam says he wants to see more multi-cultural libraries in other northeast communities. His Love With Humanity Association is run by volunteers working at a grassroots level to celebrate and build stronger communities in the northeast. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"I have nothing, no funding, we are a team and we want to work in the community, we want to do something for the community, because I love my community," said Syed Najam with the Love With Humanity Association — the small grassroots non-profit that came up with the idea.

"Social gathering is important, especially in the summer time. We have books for newcomers, all languages, for those who are coming from different countries, free of cost," said Ajam, who was once a newcomer himself, arriving in Canada from Pakistan in 2009.

He says they've received support from Calgary Reads along with Ted Harrison School, and boxes of donated books of all languages keep flowing from the community.

Locals say the library is as much about creating a sense of community as it is about reading the books themselves. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"I came here for the first time and saw all these people with different backgrounds from different countries and with kids and ladies as well," said Malik Ashraf.

"I didn't know many people but today I came and met so many new people here," Ashraf added.

"The libraries are always the cornerstones of communities," said Sudhir Bhanot, who lives nearby. "Books are always a good friend of a person."

Malik Ashraf says it’s a place to meet new people across faiths and nationalities. (Dan McGarvey/CBC )

"It's very good for the elders or the children who can't afford to go to public libraries because of the transportation. They can sit together, there are chairs here and we have a lake nearby so they can go sit by the lake and read," said Bhanot.

"The people will come, talk together. It will create a good harmony within the community," he added.

Syed Najam says he wants to open another five libraries in other communities including Redstone and Skyview Ranch, as well as in the southeast.

He says, for him, it's all about spreading the love across the northeast. 

"This is my step, you can also take a step, take care of your neighbours, spread the love everywhere," said Najam.

The library is growing every day with donations from individuals and organizations, including Calgary Reads. (Dan McGarvey/CBC )


Dan McGarvey


Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, only using an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: or tweet him @DanMcGarvey