To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Settling in: how newcomers use a public library

John Shepherd (School of Business, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey, Canada)
Larissa Petrillo (Faculty of Arts, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey, Canada)
Allan Wilson (University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, Canada)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 7 August 2018

Issue publication date: 25 October 2018




The purpose of this paper is to describe how recent immigrants and refugees to Canada (“newcomers”) use the facilities of a large, urban public library. As the library previously surveyed the general user population, the responses to the two surveys can be compared.


Questionnaires were administered as patrons were leaving Surrey Libraries Branches to adult public library members who self-identified as newcomers who arrived in Canada within the previous ten years.


The pattern of library use by newcomers differed from that of the general population. They visited more frequently and stayed longer. Newcomers were heavier users of library services and used a wider range of services. They used the library branch as a public place. The library provided them with a place to study, read or meet other people.

Research limitations/implications

The study was exploratory. The small sample size and the data collection process do not allow extrapolation to the underlying population.

Practical implications

Recent newcomers often have similar informational, psychological and social needs. Public libraries can play a role in assisting newcomers during their adjustment process.


Researchers worked closely with library management to develop questions based on decision usefulness. An earlier in-house study allowed comparisons to be made between branch use by newcomers and general library users. Canadian studies into government policy, along with immigrant and refugee studies, provide context for the survey results.



The authors wish to recognize the invaluable help and assistance of the staff of Surrey Libraries and students in Dr Petrillo’s ANTH 3190 class. The contributions of her students, along with Surinder Bhogal, Ravi Basi, Kristen Andrews, Harjinder Thind and Aina Adashynski, made this study possible.


Shepherd, J., Petrillo, L. and Wilson, A. (2018), "Settling in: how newcomers use a public library", Library Management, Vol. 39 No. 8/9, pp. 583-596.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles