Agincourt library offers a stepping stone for newly arrived

For grade seven student Hing Wai, the Toronto public library in his Agincourt community is more than just a place with books. It’s a second home.

Toronto’s libraries have been under threat of budget cuts over the past several months, as cost-conscious city councillors searched for ways to trim staff and hours. But for Wai and other students who rely upon the Agincourt library, any service cut would make his life more difficult.

Agincourt has a large amount of residents who are immigrants to the country and who lack resources such as computers or study areas in their homes, most amenities settled
Canadian families take for granted. For the newly-arrived, the Agincourt library becomes not just a place to get books but rather it becomes an integral part of their life.

“Coming to this library is very important to me because I don’t have internet yet,” says Wai who is enrolled at the nearby John Buchan Senior Public School and was at the library working on a history report.  “All our teachers want assignments to be properly researched and printed and this library is the only place where I can come and finish my work.”

Wai, whose family emigrated from China just four months ago, estimates that he spends at least 10-12 hours a week at the library and usually goes there every day right after school to finish home work before going home.

In addition to being the closest public library located near his school, Agincourt library’s location, at 155 Bonis Avenue, also makes it the closest library for students who attend the other nearby schools such as Tam O’Shanter Junior Public School, Stephen Leacock Collegiate Institute, Pauline Johnson Junior Public School and Agincourt Collegiate Institute.

In addition to having a large collection of books of various languages, the two storey library also has over 50 computers with internet and printing access and seating areas for around 175 people.

The library also provides a safe haven for older students at the post-secondary level who come to take advantage of its quiet atmosphere. Agincourt also offers free internet wi-fi service and there are plenty of power outlets so people with laptops and tablets can easily work on their own machines.

“I have three younger siblings at home and usually it is just impossible to concentrate there,” says third year Ryerson University business student Nirojan Balachandran. “I usually just bring my laptop and textbooks in here and stay in the quiet study section for hours at a time when I have something serious to work on.”

For countless other users, such as Wai and Balachandran, who pack the library nightly and on weekends, the library is about more than just books and quiet, it’s about having access to the tools needed to succeed in Canada.