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'It's all free and open and you can take 99 books out'

Houmou Guiro's Library Story helped her feel more at home in a new city

'It's all free and open and you can take 99 books out'

Houmou Guiro is no stranger to libraries. She has visited them since she was seven years old, checking out books every few weeks. But when Houmou moved from France to Canada two years ago, she discovered a library system much different than the one she was used to.

There were books to read in Calgary’s libraries, plus so much more. Houmou joined an ESL Coffee and Conversation Club to practice her English, and later signed up for an ESL Writing Club. She improved her English skills and met friends at the programs, which helped her to feel more at home in a new city.

“The Library in Calgary is very awesome,” Houmou says. “In Paris, you take your books and that’s it. Here, you have services for babies, for newcomers. If you want to open a business, you have services. It’s all free and open and you can take 99 books out.”

Houmou credits a resumé development program she took at the Library with helping her get her first job in Canada, at a retail store downtown. “I had a French resumé, but it’s very different how you do it in Canada. So I learned how to do it and got help to improve my resumé,” she says.

She now works for a not-profit organization called PIA, which offers services and programs to francophone immigrants and refugees in Calgary. In this role, Houmou tells other newcomers about available services in the city, including all they can do with a free Library card.

“I tell them ‘You have to go to the Library! It’s very good. You can take out a lot of books and a lot of everything else too,’” she says.

Houmou is also an avid reader, regularly checking out French and English titles. She blogs about the books she’s reading and her life in Canada. Lately she’s been reading a lot of books about entrepreneurship and marketing, as she works on launching her own business: a French tutoring service for kids.

When Houmou had her first child, Demba, she took him to a weekly Baby Rhyme Time program. “I didn’t know any English songs, so it was very good for me to meet some parents, talk about our babies, and sing with them in English. It was so cool,” she says.

She brings 19-month-old Demba to Louise Riley Library or the new Central Library every few weeks, just as her family used to take her to the Library in France. “We play, we take books out, we read. He likes turning the pages,” she says. “He really likes coming here. I like the Library so much too.”

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