Kitchener libraries add Arabic books to help Syrian refugees

Kitchener libraries add Arabic books to help Syrian refugeesimage

23 Dec 2015

At Forest Heights Library, there is a little display of books and materials in Arabic, a new addition to help out incoming Syrian refugees.

“We have it on display in a prominent spot,” said branch manager Chris Schnarr.

The collection of books and materials was added to the community branch’s shelves this week and the hope is it will provide newcomers with a little reminder of home and a chance to learn English or improve their language skills.

Books in foreign languages are typically housed at Kitchener Public Library’s central branch.

But over the past week, Arabic titles and DVDs have been distributed to the library’s four community branches to make titles more accessible to over 1,000 Syrian refugees expected to arrive in Waterloo Region.

“Just being aware of so many refugees coming in has given us the opportunity to work with local community organizations to see how we can help,” said Laura Luopa, manager of information services at Kitchener Public Library.

She said resources such as English as a second language material and books about Canada for native Arabic speakers will also become available next year.

“We’re anticipating there will be several people coming into the community looking for ESL help, maybe trying to improve their English,” Luopa said.

The hope, Luopa explained, is for newcomers to have easy access to materials in Arabic no matter where they might be.

“Central (branch) may not be as accessible for some of them,” she added.

The library already hosts English conversation circles but also hopes to plan evening library tours for newcomers to learn about resources available to them.

Meet-and-greets for individuals who have privately sponsored refugees are also in the works, Luopa said.

At Forest Heights Library, the shelf of about 50 titles in Arabic has already attracted the attention of passersby.

“The Arabic script has caught the eye of a few families,” Schnarr said.

“A few people have checked out materials already.”