What services can I get at the library?
To become a member of your local library, you need to get a library card. Generally, to get a card, you need to bring an identification document and a piece of mail that shows your address (for example, a utility bill). The library needs to know who you are and that you live in the area. It is free to get a library card if you live in the area.
At most libraries, you can borrow books for 2-3 weeks. Many libraries also have magazines, CDs and DVDs that you can borrow for a few days or a week.
If you are not finished with the item at the end of the borrowing period, you can usually renew your loan and keep the item for another loan period as long as there is no waiting list or holds for it. If you are simply late returning an item, you have to pay a small fine for every day the item is late.
Many libraries have an inter-library loan service. This means that if there is an item you would like to read but it is at a different library location, you can ask the library to send the item to your local library branch.
The Ontario Library Websites and Catalogues (1) is an online resource that has links to library websites and catalogues and indicates whether the catalogues are available through gopher, telnet or the internet. The Ontario Public Library (2)web pages provide direct links to the sites of many Ontario public libraries. These a good places to start your search online for the books and resources you may need.
Reference collections consist of items you can use at the library, but cannot borrow, such as dictionaries, atlases and certain popular media sources. Libraries generally have comfortable spaces for reading so that you can read and do research on site. Many people go to the library regularly to read their favourite newspaper or magazine.
Programs and Services
Your local library is an important public place in your community. Libraries have something for people of all ages. Here are some of the types of programs and services you might find:
- Homework clubs to help children with school work
- Storytelling and toy libraries for children
- Workshops and services to help with job search and career planning
- Adult literacy programs, to help you learn to read or improve your reading skills
- Multilingual collections: books, tapes/CDs, newspapers and magazines in many languages
- English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) resources
- Readings by local authors and exhibits by local artists
- Lectures and seminars on topics such as health and personal finance
For some programs, you need to register in advance. Many programs are free.
Libraries serve diverse communities and, as public institutions, have a responsibility to provide access to people with special needs. Libraries do this in many ways:
- Bookmobiles and visiting services - "Travelling libraries" bring materials to people who live in areas that are far from a library, or for seniors and others who have difficulty going to the library.
- Hospital services - Bring books and other reading material to local hospitals.
- Adaptive technology for people with disabilities - This includes large-print and Braille books for people who are visually impaired (cannot see well), touch/read books for people who are deaf, and talking books for people who are visually impaired or unable to physically hold or read a book.
If you have questions about your local library's programs or resources, ask a librarian. Librarians can help you navigate the library's collections and can help you make the most of your library membership.
Computers are now an important part of the way libraries work. In addition to computer catalogues, you may find some of these services:
- Free public internet access
- Computers and printers you can use for word processing
- CD-ROM databases on a variety of topics
Because computer access is very popular, you need to make a reservation in advance. Printing and photocopying services cost money, but computer access is normally free.
When you first visit the library, ask for an orientation tour. Library staff can tell you about the collections at your branch and about how to use the catalogues. Most library catalogues are now in electronic format, and many can be searched from home through the internet.
Some libraries have settlement workers who can help you with settlement services. These are services that can help you adjust to your new life in Canada.
The Library Settlement Partnerships (3) website has a list of libraries in Ontario that have settlement workers to help you.
For more information:
(1) Ontario Library Websites and Catalogues: from Canadian Library Gateway
(2) Ontario Public Library web pages:
(3) Library Settlement Partnerships: