When Marian Erb moved to Calgary from Ireland 36 years ago, one of the first things she did was track down her community library.
“As a newcomer, everything—from the architecture to the awesome expanse of Alberta skies—was new and overwhelming. The Library became a sanctuary for me, a home away from home,” says Marian.
She recalls the welcoming smiles she received from Library staff on that first visit and the support given as she learned about the many resources the Library had to offer.
“Staff are the Library’s most important resource,” she says. “They are the first point of contact for newcomers and ensure they have access to computers so that connections with family and friends back home is maintained as they acclimatize to their new surroundings.”
While Marian shares a common language with native Calgarians, she can relate to that ‘lost’ feeling common to the newcomer experience, when an accent can mark you as ‘different.’ So, when she considered becoming a Library volunteer, she was drawn to working with people for whom English was foreign.
“Newcomers often feel anxious in their new, unfamiliar surroundings. I remember that feeling and love to help people build confidence as they work to improve their spoken English. Volunteering in the Library’s Conversation Club allows me to reach out with friendship and find common ground…and then the words and stories start to flow.”
Volunteering can be a daunting concept, but when asked what attributes aspiring Library volunteers should possess, Marian states that it’s really very simple: they need to love meeting new people, have patience, and be genuinely interested in the program they’ve chosen and the people they’re working alongside.
“Volunteering at the Library allows me to do what I love, surrounded by beautiful, wonderful books in the company of friendly, like-minded people helping newcomers begin to feel like they’ve come home.”
If you’d like to join the Library’s team of volunteers at special events or at a wide variety of other programs, please call Volunteer Resources at 403.260.2632 or complete a Library Volunteer Application form online.