The Value of Public Libraries in Canada
Canada's public libraries are sanctuaries of learning that are accessible to almost everyone
Name one of the most useful and valuable institutions in Canadian society. Are you thinking of the public schools that provide free education to all children? Maybe the fair and balanced legal system that ensures justice? Or perhaps the extensive public transportation networks, which allow you to travel easily within cities at affordable prices?
While all these institutions are certainly emblematic of Canada's greatness, it is the country's public libraries that ought to be top of mind (and for good reason), because they offer knowledge and learning tools in a safe and comfortable space that is accessible to almost everyone.
Public libraries provide books, CDs, DVDs, computer access, Internet access, workshops, classes, and education to everyone in the community – and they’re completely free to join! As long as you live in a city, you’re entitled to borrow books from the library and you can use all the services they have to offer. Who says nothing good comes for free?
Services Offered by Public Libraries
Here are just a few of the services provided to you for free by your local public library:
- You can borrow books and take them home. Libraries have books in many different languages, and you can borrow them and take them home with you for a limited time.
- They offer clubs for children. Libraries across Canada offer special clubs and programs designed to encourage children to read and learn. Some branches might even have day camps that your children can enrol in during the summer and spring break.
- They can help your children with their schoolwork. Library staff are highly trained and can often provide your child with help researching and writing projects and reports.
- They offer plenty of services for newcomers to Canada. Many libraries have clubs and services that they provide for newcomers to Canada. They can help you integrate into your new community and meet friends.
- You can borrow DVDs. Libraries don’t just have purely educational materials. They also have a lot of Hollywood movies on DVD that you can borrow to watch at home.
- They can help you find a job. Certain libraries offer job seeker programs, which can provide you with information about finding a job.
- You can borrow CDs and audiobooks. Need some more music in your life? Borrow CDs from the library. They have music in a variety of genres, styles, and languages.
- Use their computers and printers. If you need to use a word processor, print materials, or create a spreadsheet, the library has a bank of computers that you can use for free. Printing usually costs a small fee per page.
- They offer free access to the internet. Let’s face it, the world runs online these days! You need access to the internet to do banking, apply for jobs, connect with friends, and many other important tasks. Libraries offer free online access to all members.
- Learn how to use the internet and set up an email account. Are you a stranger to the online world? Librarians can help you understand the internet, either through one-on-one instruction or in workshops.
- They offer family storytelling events. Taking your children to a storytelling session at the local library helps them to learn, get a better grasp of English, and make new friends. It can also be a lot of fun for the whole family!
- You can simply just relax in the library. Libraries are safe spaces in the community. They are air conditioned in the summer months and heated in the cooler weather. Many people spend time in their local library simply relaxing, reading, surfing the web, and/or meeting new friends.
How Can You Get a Library Card?
If you live in a city, it’s very simple to get a library card for that region’s public library system. To join most libraries in Canada you will need the following:
- One piece of official picture identification. This can be a passport, driver’s licence, provincial ID, status card, or residency card.
- Proof of address. This can be a bank statement, or a telephone, electric, or cable TV bill.
Children are entitled to their own library card at most libraries, and their parents do not have to be members of the same library. They usually have lower borrowing limits.
If you’re experiencing any form of homelessness, you’re still eligible for a library card that is valid for three months. These temporary cards enable you to borrow up to five items and give you access to library computers. Get in touch with your local library for more information.
What Are Library Fines?
While the public library offers you dozens of invaluable services at no cost to you or your family, they do need you to return your materials on time. When you borrow books, DVDs, CDs, and other materials from the library, they are entrusting you with the items for a specific period of time. You need to return your materials before or on the due date. If you miss this date and return your items late, you will accrue fees.
Library late fees vary from city to city, but here is an example of some of the fees issued by the Ottawa Public Library System:
- Late fees for children's books are 10 cents per day, per book
- Late fees for adult books are 40 cents per day, per book
- $1 will be charged for books that you placed on hold and then did not pick up
The Library Is a Community Space for All
No matter which city you live in or move to in Canada, your local library is a small sanctuary for learning and letting go – a place for you and your family to enjoy, relax, and spend time together. With countless resources at your fingertips and millions of books, DVDs, and CDs to borrow, you will never grow tired of this extraordinary place. Happy reading!