Liya Robertson, who moved to Pictou County nine years ago and is originally from Russia, spoke about how the library has been a place to meet and connect with people. The Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library locations were officially launched as Newcomer Welcome Centres at an event at the New Glasgow branch on Tuesday.
NEW GLASGOW When she moved to Pictou County, one of the first places Liya Robertson met people was at the library.
The Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library was where she found other parents while she took her son to storytime sessions, where she attended lectures and events, and where she now teaches students English as an additional language.
“This is place where to come for good advice, for important information, and… smiling, friendly faces,” said Robertson, who hails from Russia and has lived in Pictou County for nine years, during a speech at the launch of local libraries as Newcomer Welcome Centres.
While the library has long been a place to go to for information on community resources, that role has been expanded with the help of several partnerships, including the Pictou County and Antigonish chambers of commerce. This has allowed for diversity training for staff, the development of a website that lists any resources newcomers might be seeking and the introduction of an online language-training tool called Rocket Languages.
“When you come to a community, in order to get some information, you need to go to different places to get it. Here, it’s all concentrated…. It will be very helpful,” said Robertson about the centres, noting that she already has all of her students using Rocket Languages.
During the event at the New Glasgow Library on Tuesday afternoon, PARL chief librarian Eric Stackhouse noted the importance of the in-person supports at each branch.
“You need a person to talk to, to have someone to interact with and that’s what libraries are very good at. We provide a welcome; we try very hard to answer people’s questions, to focus them into the right areas and other things. By providing this training, these resources, it gives our staff a better chance to do that,” he said, noting that the centres will be advertised with posters and welcome packs distributed to organizations.
The initiative is intended to help newcomers want to stay in the area.
Central Nova MP Sean Fraser spoke at the launch about the necessity of welcoming newcomers into Nova Scotia’s communities, noting the province’s aging population and the challenge that poses for “success into the future.”
“With immigration, it’s not just about welcoming people because it’s nice to welcome new faces, although it is as well. It’s in our own self-interest to do so. When we look at it from an economic perspective, we know that newcomers create new markets,” Fraser said.
He also noted they may come with an entrepreneurial spirit, citing the success of the Hadhad family in Antigonish who, after moving to Nova Scotia from Syria one year ago, are now employing 10 people.
“In addition to the economic returns that I could talk about for half a day if you let me, we see a real social benefit for our communities as well. There’s a new vibrancy when we have new people in our communities,” he said, noting the opportunity to experience many cultures at the Fusion Festival and the chance to taste foods from different countries at the farmers market.
During her remarks, Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Lena Diab thanked everyone involved in the project and offered a few comments for the newcomers in the room.
“I want you to know that I know that it’s not easy to settle in a new place. I know that it takes time and it takes courage and sometimes it takes perseverance. But it also takes a lot of community support. And I know this community is doing it very well. With their support, I know you’re going to thrive and you’re going to do very well here.”