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Locating Public Libraries in a Multicultural City: A Spatial Mismatch?

Nadia Caidi, Danielle Allard and Chiu Luk

(Submission #77)


Toronto is a vibrant and multicultural city, which the United Nations recently declared to be the one of the world's most culturally diverse cities. This study examines how public libraries fit within the lived experience of two immigrant communities in Toronto: Chinese and Indians. The aim is to assess the ways in which libraries have accounted (or not) for changing patterns of migration and settlement over time, and how poverty and access to information resources relate to one another and to the integration of new immigrants into Canadian society.

Using Geographical Information System (GIS) software, we map various key indicators such as the areas of residence of immigrants from the two communities studied; the poverty lines for the neighborhoods selected; and the service provision of the public library systems in catchment areas of six public library systems located near immigrant communities in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area.

Ultimately, this study raises the issue of the “place” (both physical and social) of the public library in a multicultural city like Toronto. Broader questions that frame this study include: how might public libraries enhance the capacity of Canada and Canadian cities to receive and ‘integrate’ immigrants and refugees? What policies and programs are necessary to ensure the social inclusion of newcomers? What is the role of information access (through institutions, the web, library collections) in promoting the social and cultural integration of newcomers and visible minorities into a multicultural or pluralistic society? What are language-related challenges and opportunities created by the growing diversity of immigrant populations and how should public libraries and the broader public policies respond?


[Paper (DOC)]  

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