The Windsor Public Library has always supported new immigrants to Canada and encouraged its customers to celebrate their diverse heritages. By the end of the 1940s, the library partnered with the Education Council to provide naturalization citizenship classes, offering free use of films, books and librarians to speak on what the library could offer new Canadians.
In May 1960, the editor of the Malta News, George Bonavia was invited by the WPL to set up a series of displays at the Carnegie Branch. This “International Rendezvous at the Library” helped customers discover new cultures connected with Windsor residents. Later that year, the WPL organized a film series scheduled through the winter of displays with photographs, pictures and books, film nights and slide shows. In November 1960, Norway was the featured country, and the 1960-61 season’s selection of films included Poland, Ukraine, Lebanon, Russia and China.
In celebration of the “Know Canada Better” series, the Citizenship Council of Greater Windsor offered a presentation of “ethnic records” to the WPL. Multicultural displays are still held in the various branches. In 1992, an exhibit staged by Lua Kosak and Luba Manley called, “Memories, Achievements, and Dreams” was sponsored by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. The Congress was so impressed by the cooperation of Windsor librarians, they donated a copy of the National Film Board video, Legacy to a New Land to the library.
The WPL also made it possible for all new Canadians to learn about Canada with a free film series about various places in Canada, including Canada’s north in the 1960s and 1970s.
Certain branches catered to the city’s francophone population with French language books including Riverside, Remington Park and Seminole. Seminole began to host events for French Immersion students and members of the Polish-Canadian community by the 1980s. In 1986, the Minister of Citizenship and Culture sponsored a French Language Library Collection Development program with a grant for the WPL to purchase new children’s books and videos. By 1989, a full Languages Centre was in use with materials in all formats in French and 29 other languages, including Asiatic, European and Middle Eastern languages.
The WPL offered employment experience to youth as well, emphasizing equal access to all. These efforts were appreciated in 1994 when the African Community Organization of Windsor thanked the WPL for its participation in the jobsOntario Youth Program that summer.
Recognizing the founding cultures of Windsor and region, the curators at the François Baby House (Hiram Walker Museum) worked in cooperation with the Ontario Heritage Foundation, the Essex County Historical Society, Les Amis Duff-Baby, the Can-Am Friendship Centre, francophone heritage groups and the Sandwich First Baptist Church to establish an education program. This grant would fund programs recognizing the British, French, First Nations and African heritage of Windsor’s founders.
In May, 2003, the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County offered a presentation to the WPL Board offering guidelines on making the library more user-friendly to new Canadians. Their recommendations, including encouraging parents to bring their children to the programs offered at the Main Library through Early Years; educate the staff on needs of new Canadians; library cards offered to new Canadians as part of a “welcome” package; and the website available in multiple languages.
The Library Settlement Partnership (LSP) was established with the Windsor Public Library in 2009. The LSP’s purpose is to facilitate and provide information, referral and other services to “support the successful settlement of newcomers to Ontario through a three-way partnership of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the settlement sector, and public libraries” (Foster, WPL Board Annual Report, September 25, 2012). Three settlement workers were assigned to Central, Sandwich and Forest Glade Branches. The program provides the WPL with updates on languages spoken by customers, and library services were found to have increased among new Canadians. According to Settlement agent, Sandhya Shanker, newcomers to Canada in turn feel comfortable in the library environment, and feel able to volunteer and offer their talents for special events such as Chinese New Year celebrations and the Human Library.
The WPL continues to host Citizenship and Immigration Canada Citizenship Ceremonies. One was held in October 2012. This particular event launched a new initiative and in cooperation with the Institute of Canadian Citizenship offering a program in which Cultural Access Pass gives new citizens the opportunity to visit 1,200 national and local historic sites, museums, provincial and national parks and other attractions for free for a year. New citizens from the Windsor-Essex area can pick up their passes from the WPL.