Interview with Joanne Peace: What does inclusion look like at the Calgary Public Library?

July 3, 2019

What is your role as Newcomers Librarian?
As Newcomers Librarian, I have the opportunity to work with a variety of government agencies and local organizations that are working passionately to provide connections and services for newcomers settling in Canada.

Why is inclusion important to the Calgary Public Library?
Inclusion is a foundational principle of the public library. Inclusion empowers our community by connecting people to ideas and experiences, inspiration and insight.

What does inclusion look like in practice through different departments or initiatives at the library?Eliminating barriers to our services and collections through free free memberships, fantastic meeting spaces in all our libraries and free programs for all ages.

The library’s focus on inclusion is reflected in the Indigenous Placemaking Commissions.  The program promotes an educational understanding and cultural communication of Indigenous peoples within Treaty 7 territory, and collaboration amongst artists of all disciplines, backgrounds, and stages of careers. It also develops specific artworks that reflect traditional cultural practices, materials, and techniques taught and overseen by Elders and knowledge keepers.

Our libraries are welcoming spaces for all ages and there’s fun to be had, too! The Early Literary Centres provide a free and accessible space to all and are intended to create an experience families might not otherwise have. The spaces are highly interactive and playful, informed by research supporting the importance of play in a child’s development.

We are also inviting our teen population to collaborate with us. The Teen Tech Lab is a dedicated creative space for teens, supported by technology and by volunteer mentors.  The Teen Tech Lab supports a range of programming, including after-school programs. The programs offered are free, drop-in, and support exploratory learning. They cover skills from sewing to nutrition, robotics to painting, and everything in between.

Roundtable discussions take place at a citizenship ceremony hosted by the Calgary Public Library on April 25, in partnership with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada. Photo by Kelly Hofer.

With inclusion in mind, which of your initiative(s) would you consider the most successful or innovative?One of our most successful programs is the ESL Coffee and Conversation Club. This is a six- week program facilitated by staff, where [people can] practice English with lesson plans and conversations, and ultimately build confidence in speaking their new language.  A large component of these types of classes is the socializing and connecting part. [Participants] make friends and enjoy a coffee and they are also learning about their city and country and the Canadian way of life.

Other initiatives that we are extremely proud of and align with our strategic direction include the Elders’ Guidance Circle and the Indigenous Language Resource Centre.

The Elders’ Guidance Circle is a space for anyone to speak to Indigenous Elders from multiple nations. Here, Elders are able to provide education, storytelling, and a spiritual component to programming and services, including ceremony and smudges. Elders are available on a daily basis, with the schedule updated regularly.

The Indigenous Languages Resource Centre will help protect, preserve, and promote Indigenous culture, thanks to $1 million in funding from the Government of Alberta. Located at Central Library, this will be the third centre of its kind in Canada, where anyone, with their free library card, can access language learning, storytelling, Elder guidance, and other materials. The project was launched at the same time the United Nations declared 2019 as the Year of Indigenous Languages.

Members are embracing the opportunity to enter this beautiful Guidance Circle and engage with Elders, says Joanne Peace, Newcomers Librarian at the Calgary Public Library. Photo courtesy of the Calgary Public Library.

What responses or results have you seen from implementing these initiatives?
Members are embracing the opportunity to enter the beautiful Guidance Circle and engage with Elders—they listen to stories and learn from their conversations. Children and families love playing and learning in these spaces and they are making connections with others. Six Indigenous artists — all from or with a connection to Treaty 7 — have contributed art for three spaces within Central Library.

Our results are also measured both qualitatively and quantitatively. We capture the attendance statistics, as well as wonderful stories that illuminate our successes.

The Calgary Public Library is open to everyone!

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Registered charity number:
82303 4145 RR0001

The Institute for Canadian Citizenship is committed to ensuring equal access and participation for all people. We strive to provide events and services that are welcoming and accessible to everyone. Should you require an accommodation to better support your interactions with us, please email info@inclusion.ca or call us at +1 416 593-6998.