Kitchener-Waterloo

Idea Exchange offering bilingual tours to help introduce newcomers to the library

The Idea Exchange in Cambridge is offering bilingual tours to help newcomers get comfortable with the library and connect with other speakers of their language.

volunteers lead tours in languages like Arabic, Spanish, Korean and Punjabi

The Clemens Mill Idea Exchange in Cambridge is trying to reach out to recent immigrants by holding bilingual library tours. (Google Maps)

The Idea Exchange in Cambridge is offering bilingual tours to help newcomers get comfortable with the library and connect with other speakers of their language.

The Clemens Mill branch started holding drop-in sessions in October, with volunteers leading tours in languages like Arabic, Spanish, Korean and Punjabi.

But newcomer and volunteer coordinator Shannon Markle says they've had a hard time bringing people in.

"Sometimes the folks we really want to reach out to and really want to bring in, are the folks that are a little bit isolated and they're really hard to connect to," Markle explained.

She said it can be difficult overcoming the language barrier, especially if the people don't already know someone who uses the library.

Shannon Markle is the newcomer and volunteer coordinator with the Idea Exchange in Cambridge. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

Markle is hoping to overcome that barrier by connecting with local cultural groups, mosques and schools.

She said the library has a number of valuable resources — from free online courses to conversation circles where people can practice their English.

The Idea Exchange also has a partnership with the YMCA Immigrant Services Program, where new immigrants can meet with a settlement worker at the library.

"A lot of what our programming is doing is really helping people to understand that we welcome you, we want you to be here, you belong here," Markle said.

Libraries have been an important part of Iana Tchigak's life in Canada.

Tchigak is a volunteer with the Idea Exchange, but 18 years ago she and her family were new immigrants who moved from St. Petersburg, Russia to Toronto.

Iana Tchigak, a volunteer with the Idea Exchange, says she and her daughter would spend hours at the library when they first immigrated to Canada in 2000. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

"When it was a rainy day, it was so easy to go with my kid and spend time in the library," she said.

"While she was playing or reading a book, I look around and find a lot of information about community events, what's going on in Toronto."

Tchigak said the library has a lot to offer, especially for new immigrants starting to learn English.

Although the Idea Exchange has stopped offering drop-in sessions of its bilingual tours, individual tours can still be booked by contacting the Clemens Mill branch.

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