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Spreading the word on every service the library can offer key part of new role 

When Amani Saleh came to Canada from Egypt in 2019, she was surprised about the resources in place for supporting newcomers. 

“I thought it would be easier for them to get to the right resources,” says the newcomer engagement specialist for Halifax Public Libraries. 

Saleh came to Halifax to join her brother and sister who had previously moved here. Her parents were frequent visitors, too. Saleh came as an international student and completed NSCC’s one-year emergency management diploma program. After graduating, she worked as a medical and legal interpreter. 

Saleh began working for Halifax Public Libraries just before the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit Nova Scotia this spring and led to a shutdown. 

As the newcomer engagement specialist, Saleh’s job is to help connect newcomers to supports libraries offer, as well as connect them to resources in the community. She’s also helping get the word out to community partners about her services so that they connect people with her. 

Currently, some of the programming offered for newcomers includes English language learning sessions, English conversation groups and events. The library’s website has a section devoted to newcomers:

According to a press release, Saleh can help newcomers with things like finding professional support for filing taxes, understanding public transit schedules and navigating routes, finding a family doctor, and applying for school and jobs. 

The need for supports for immigrants will likely grow, especially given Nova Scotia’s increasing population and the federal government’s plans to welcome refugees from Afghanistan. 

Saleh’s work is helping newcomers in the Dartmouth North, Musquodoboit Harbour, Sackville, Spryfield, and Tantallon areas. 

One way she’s already helped was supporting a family with three children who were having problems getting enrolled in school.The children 一 two in elementary and one in junior high 一 had been in Nova Scotia for a year and a half, but weren’t attending school because of their immigration status. 

“I took the matter further, I asked around, I got in touch with some people at the school board, I explained their situation exactly and I was able to put the three kids in school, so that felt very rewarding,” Saleh says. 

It’s moments like this that make the job gratifying, but instances where it’s difficult to connect with the appropriate supports can make it frustrating. For example, Saleh says it’s challenging to find resources for children with disabilities who need more support at school, as well as children who need additional language help outside of the classroom. 

“This is a big issue,” she says. 

Saleh hopes she’ll be able to design specific programs to address the needs she identifies. 

“I love the library,” she says. “It’s a great place. It was a very welcoming place for me when I came, so I want to spread the word and I want to let people know what kind of services the library provides and I hope they see it as a hub for newcomers in the near future for any services they might require.” 

Richard Woodbury

Richard writes for both local and national publications and his work has been published by Reuters, Metro and Enterprise Magazine.

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