There are numerous reasons why a person would choose to move to another country. It could be to study or work abroad, to follow a spouse, or to experience something new. No matter the reason, expats will always need to adapt to their new country, and this period of transition can sometimes be tough.
An article on the Digital Public Library mentions that “immigrating to a new country is a daunting and complicated task. You are surrounded by new customs, new people, possibly a new language, and paperwork”. Word is that for a lot of expats, libraries can help a great deal in adapting to a new country. Indeed, by identifying newcomers as a different segment of the community and personalizing the communications to them, libraries can impact the life of newcomers in many ways.
In this blog post, a few expats around the world share their experience on how the library helped them adapt to their new life. We will also present 8 different activities that libraries are offering or can offer to help expats in their everyday life.
1. Access to a wide range of books
One thing is for sure when you move to a new country, your social network is not going to be as big as it used to be. Therefore, expats will have more free time than before.
Everyone knows that reading books for free is what you can do at the library. No matter where you are in the world, libraries are like a sanctuary where you know you can just go and read. It might just be exactly what newcomers need when they feel like they have nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon.
2. Info about the city and the library
Some libraries are already walking the extra mile to efficiently target newcomers. CBC Canada wrote an article on how “The Idea Exchange in Cambridge is offering bilingual tours to help newcomers get comfortable with the library and connect with other speakers of their language.” Other libraries may even offer a free guided tour around the city.
Discovering a new city can take time as you need to start from scratch, find your new favorite restaurants, your new favorite shopping spots, coffee shop, etc. Of course, Google and Tripadvisor can help, but there is nothing like a recommendation from locals. Some libraries are now offering city guides that they created for newcomers and tourists.
3. Access to language classes
Moving to another country could also mean learning a completely new language. Learning a language is a long process as it requires time and often money because most language classes can be quite expensive.
However, numerous libraries around the world are now offering language classes to help newcomers learn the language of their adoptive country. Some of them even offer other languages, which can be great for expats if they want their children to learn how to speak and write in their mother tongue.
4. Activities for children
It’s not rare anymore to hear that a family with children decided to move to a new country because they got a job offer they couldn’t refuse or maybe they simply wanted to try something new. A major concern for families is to find a way to make sure their children will be happy with the decision to move.
Libraries can be the best place for children to meet new friends, enjoy nice storytimes, visit games rooms, get access to art and craft rooms, etc. They even often have a kids space specifically for them.
5. Guidance with immigration papers
Moving to a new country is a lot of paperwork. There are a lot of forms to fill out before leaving, but also when arriving at the new destination. It can be very overwhelming and bring a lot of stress to expats.
More and more libraries are offering help to get through that long and overwhelming process. They give guidance and make sure that the process is as smooth as it can be.
6. Access to printing, scanning and copying
Talking about immigration documents, most of them need to be printed out, filled out and signed before you can send them to the immigration service. It’s well-known that many libraries offer all the basic functions such as print, scan or copy. And let’s be honest, a printer wouldn’t be the first thing you think about buying when you move to a new country.