April 11, 2024

New Westminster Public Library is excited to announce the launch of a revamped, city-wide literary festival. The newly coined Bridges Literary Festival will be held May 9 – 12 in partnership with local businesses and organizations.

“We are so thrilled to provide the opportunity for local residents to celebrate and connect over a love of the literary arts,” says Caitlin MacRae, Programming Librarian at New Westminster Public Library. “For this year, we have 15 events taking place across the city, including author talks, kids’ storytimes, crafts, author panels, a book launch, a local author book club and discussion, poetry readings, workshops and social events! The idea is to not just passively consume stories but to learn how to create and share them, whether you are a budding novelist, poet or just want some advice with your own writing,” says MacRae.

The festival is the library’s first since prior to the COVID pandemic. While the focus is local, the aspiration is to use this first year as a launchpad to grow into a larger event each year.

“As a small library we wanted to capitalize on the power of partnership and community to deliver a festival that would appeal to as many as possible. What we have assembled here is a starting place that will hopefully grow to represent as many experiences and points of view as possible,” says Elaine Su, Chair of the Library Board of Trustees.

For this inaugural outing, the library is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Arts New West, Groove Cat Books & Records, Kinder Books, Moodswing Coffee + Bar, New West Writers, Royal City Literary Arts Society, SFU Writer’s Studio, Steel & Oak Brewing Co., and Wildfires Bookshop. All events are free and residents are encouraged to pick up a flyer or visit the library’s festival web page for details at http://nwpl.ca/bridges

About the New Westminster Public Library
Founded in 1865, the New Westminster Public Library is committed to providing accessible and responsive community services, that balance the needs of traditional library users with those seeking the tools and experiences of a modern, technologically relevant public space. The library provides dynamic and vibrant means for the community to continually grow, learn, and succeed.

For more information, contact Caitlin MacRae, Programming Librarian, cmacrae@nwpl.ca.


Welcome to the library, Carolyn, we’re so happy you’re here!

Can you tell us a bit about your connection to New Westminster?

New West is a special place for my family! My parents got married here and my mother spent most of her nursing career here as well. And I had one of my first postings as a librarian here!

Oh really? When was that?

Yes! After my degree in archive and library science, I worked in archives for a few years. Then I switched to libraries and worked at NWPL from 2008-2011 as an auxiliary librarian.

That’s so great! I’m sure there are some staff in the library who you remember and maybe some specific events?

Yes, that’s one of the things I am excited about with the NWPL – there are quite a few long-serving staff members which indicate a sense of stability and that the organization must be doing something right! I’m really happy to see some familiar faces here. When I worked here previously I often did storytimes in the children’s department, which I know are ongoing today. I remember one storytime in particular during the 2010 Olympics when there was so much excitement about the Games. We read sports stories, acting out the different winter sports, and energy was so high and so positive. That’s the kind of connection the library is all about.

That’s wonderful. Have you always had a passion for libraries?

I’ve always been a reader and a user of public libraries from a young age. My parents always encouraged the seeking and gaining of knowledge and the public library was a big part of that. I also consider giving back to the community to be an important part of everyone’s responsibilities, and libraries are a great way to engage in that. I didn’t always know I wanted to be a librarian, but when a classmate at university was accepted into library school at UBC, I thought I could do that too!

What has brought you to this point in your career of leading a public library?

I have worked all through the library and archives sector in special collections, archives and public and academic libraries. Just before I came to NWPL, I was the Assistant Head and User Services and Engagement Librarian at SFU Fraser Library (that’s the SFU library at their Surrey campus). The through-line of all these organizations is that they are all about community and connection. The institutions have meaning to and are in service of communities, bringing their stories and interests together. I’m excited to bring my professional experience together to help the NWPL meet its mission and vision and to be the library it’s meant to be.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing libraries in Canada?

There is definitely a tension between different visions for what libraries can be. There are great needs in our society, and sometimes there’s conflict between those different needs or between those needs and traditional library service. Navigating a course between these competing needs and visions is a challenge for organizations and for staff.

What are your hopes for the NWPL? What are you most looking forward to?

The vision that was laid out in the NWPL Strategic Plan (from 2021) is really exciting – as a Filipina Canadian, it is exciting to see myself personally reflected in a strategic plan with a radical vision of inclusion and diversity! I look forward to continuing to bring the vision of this strategic plan to the people of New Westminster, and I hope that this will help us become a model for other libraries.

What are you reading right now?

For me, reading serves different purposes. At work, I read to get up to speed and for professional development. It’s a time of intense learning and transition for me. But at home, I need to relax, and so it’s cozy mysteries all the time! Particularly ones that feature feisty library directors who solve all the crimes! I also love listening to audiobooks of middle grade fiction (aimed primarily at kids in grades 4-7) as they have super fun stories and amazing narrators.

What’s your favourite place to read?

Wherever there’s a chair with enough room for me and my dog, Coco, and enough light, I will happily read a book.

Thanks for sharing with us, Carolyn! We look forward to working together!


September 5, 2023

The New Westminster Public Library announces What Housing Means to Me, a photovoice exhibit running through the entire month of September 2023. The exhibit includes photographs and recorded stories of a number of women experiencing housing precarity and/or homelessness. The project was originally facilitated by Artist-Mentor photographer Mihailo Subotic with funding realized by the Community Poverty Reduction Committee and Douglas College. The goals of this project are to use photography and storytelling to highlight the importance of home, belonging, and community while also facilitating dialogues around affordable housing, and the misconceptions and stereotypes about those living in poverty and experiencing homelessness. The resulting exhibit, features photographs taken by 4 different women with lived experience. This particular exhibit builds on previous displays of the works by including recorded conversations with each of the women. Through both the exhibit and dialogue it is hoped that there will be greater community awareness and support regarding the need for more affordable housing and the value of including those facing housing challenges in future discussions about housing development in our city.

The exhibit has been made possible through a partnership between the New Westminster Public Library and the Changing the Conversation Project at Douglas College. The impetus for the show came out of the relationship-building work Community Librarians have undertaken with vulnerable and marginalized members of our community. The exhibit will highlight the photos and digital stories of each of four women who were involved in the original project. Each of their stories have been made available through sound recordings accessible at www.nwpl.ca/housing. In-person visitors to the library can scan a QR code to learn more about the importance of the project and those involved in bringing it to fruition.

What Housing Means to Me will be available to view starting September 1, 2023, on the top floor of the Library’s main branch at 716 6th Avenue.

For more information, contact Liz Hunter, Community Librarian Lead, lhunter@nwpl.ca.

Beginning May 17, 2023, the New Westminster Public Library is launching an exciting new podcast recording service that will make it possible for members of the community to record and share their own stories and ideas through the creation of their very own podcasts.

Podcasting has grown in popularity in recent years with more than 8,000,000 Canadians enjoying a host of podcast topics ranging from comedy, local issues and politics to true-crime, health and fitness. Community members will be able to access equipment, make use of a newly modified ‘recording room’, and produce their own podcasts right in the main branch of the library, for free.

“As a library we want to make sure that we reflect the times we are in and ensure that emerging technology and services are made available to our community – especially those who may not otherwise have access.” Says Jorge Cardenas, Chief Librarian. “Libraries are not just about warehousing stories, but also about creating and sharing them in new and original ways. Podcasting is a great example of that.”

In preparation for the launch of the podcasting service, the library has created a number of podcast kits containing microphones, cables and hardware, as well as a set of how-to guides to help get people started. The library has also modified the 2nd floor Gallery Room with noise reduction and sound baffling features to help optimize the recording experience. The recording space can be booked ahead of time and can accommodate recording of up to four individuals at a time.
Since January, 2023 the Library has been hosting a Podcast Meetup group on the first Wednesday of each month. The drop-in program, open to novices and experts alike, provides a space where the community can generate ideas and share the latest in podcasting tips and tricks. With the launch of this service, the library looks forward to offering more programs designed to help community members learn to create their own podcasts from conception to broadcast.

Anyone wanting more information about Podcasting at NWPL can contact the library at 604-527-4665, email askus@nwpl.ca or check out the website at www.nwpl.ca/podcast. Contact: Liz Hunter at 604-636-4342 or lhunter@nwpl.ca

Press Release of March 31, 2023

The New Westminster Public Library has just been notified that it will receive a one-time, targeted Enhancement Grant of almost $200,000 from the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Public Libraries Branch to be spent over three years.  This is in addition to our annual Provincial Public Library Grant, which was increased in 2023 by $16,000 to reflect 2021 Census population figures.

“We deeply appreciate the support this grant provides us, given a strategic plan that emphasizes equity, diversity, accessibility and inclusion.” said Elaine Su and Iris Cheng, Co-Chairs of the Library’s Board of Trustees. “We’re looking forward to working with the community to identify priorities in how best to allocate these funds.”

The grant arrives at an important time in the library’s history. “While continuing to provide traditional services to the community, we recognize that the city is growing, and with that growth comes increasing demands for more. We also recognize the need to work with marginalized and vulnerable communities who are easily overlooked when planning for new services and programs” notes Jorge Cardenas, Chief Librarian. “There are a number of those in our city who continue to face physical, social or cultural barriers to library services, and this funding can assist us to extend our services to those who most need them, where they are.”

Similar grants are being issued to libraries across BC as part of a provincial strategy to recognize the “shifting demands on services, collections, programs and spaces”, according to the Ministry’s notice to the library. The grant is also intended to help “respond to local service priorities, making services more accessible and inclusive, and/or increasing climate readiness and resilience”. The grant is intended to supplement local government funding and not to replace it.

In operation since 1865 the New Westminster Public Library is British Columbia’s first free public library in the province serving a population of approximately 82,000 residents in New Westminster BC.

Contact: Jorge Cardenas, Chief Librarian jcardenas@nwpl.ca or 604-527-4675

Joining the ranks of several libraries across Canada, the New Westminster Public Library is thrilled to announce the launch of a Seed Library, beginning February 11, 2023.

“We hope people will take some seeds, grow a garden however and wherever they are, then bring some of the seeds they produce back to us for sharing,” says Caitlin MacRae, librarian at NWPL and coordinator of the Seed Library. “Saving seeds is actually fun, free, and a great way to expand your knowledge of gardening while being a part of a larger community effort to go green.” Users will have free access to a variety of seed types including vegetables, flowers and a variety of herbs.

The idea of a seed library is not new for libraries but is for the New Westminster Public Library. “It’s one thing to loan out books about gardening” says Christopher Koth, Manager of Community Programs and Engagement, but after being approached by local members of the community “we realized there was an amazing opportunity to support city-wide efforts to promote issues around climate action and food security by offering this kind of a service”. The library’s 2021-2025 strategic plan emphasizes the City’s Seven Bold Steps for Climate Action as a priority, and Koth notes this is one way of lending support.

Starting Saturday, February 11, gardeners of all types can come to the Main Branch of the Library, fill out a short registration form, and then ‘check out’ some seeds. There are also a small number of gardening tools and planting templates available for loan, whether folks are planting a small container on a balcony or starting their own garden in a backyard. Details about this unique collection are available at: www.nwpl.ca/seeds

To launch the service, the library has partnered with FarmFolk CityFolk and Gardens4Kids to offer an all-ages celebratory “Seedy Saturday” event, February 11 from 10am to 2pm. The day will feature a range of programming including a number of gardening talks like how to build a container garden, and how to support pollinators, while also offering a special seedy storytime & activities for kids. There will also be an ask-a-gardener booth, a garden gear swap, and, of course, an introduction to the seed library! Some of New West’s favourite food trucks will also be on hand outside the library, with some door prizes to be won.

The event is planned to take place indoors and outdoors, rain or shine. As with all library services programming is free and open to all. “Above all, we want to encourage people to exercise their curiosity about local gardening of all types, and connect with others who share these interests” notes MacRae.

Anyone wanting more information about the Seed Library or the Seedy Saturday launch events can contact the library at 604-527-4660, email askus@nwpl.ca or check out the website at www.nwpl.ca/seeds .

Contact: Caitlin MacRae at 604-636-3541 or cmacrae@nwpl.ca

New Westminster – New Westminster Public Library is excited to announce it will no longer charge overdue fines on library materials. As part of the roll-out to this new policy, the library will be granting a one-time amnesty that will erase all fines from all accounts that were in place prior to September 10, 2022.

“The New Westminster Public Library Board of Trustees join with other libraries across Canada who have come to understand how traditional library represent a serious equity issue,” said Library Board Chair Norah Andrews. “By eliminating fines, hundreds of library users will again be able to check out library materials and take advantage of everything the library has to offer. This is a key element of our 2021 – 2025 Strategic Plan that emphasizes equity of access and the reduction of barriers to library use.”

“New Westminster Public Library is proud to support our commitment to equitable library service for all. By eliminating overdue fines and nearly all fees, we want to encourage more residents to use and enjoy the library”, said Chief Librarian Jorge Cardenas.

In August of 2021, the Library Board and library staff began to explore the costs and benefits of moving to a fine-free model. Following this review and in consultation with the City of New Westminster, the Library Board unanimously passed an updated policy on June 21, 2022 eliminating the charging of overdue fines as well as other fees related to costs to replace a library card, and regular holds pick-up fees. The library has actually not assessed these fines since the arrival of COVID-19 in March 2020.

In the lead-up to the Board decision, Library staff reviewed data on borrowing trends, cardholder trends, use patterns of other fine-free libraries, and revenue generated by overdue fines. As a result, it became clear that overdue fines and the blocked library cards that often resulted from fines, affected services for many New Westminster residents, in particular those with lower incomes and marginalized communities. “When we looked at library materials since we paused fine charges during COVID, there was no difference in terms of wait times and the overall return rate, and any revenue from the fines that were collected accounted for less than 1% of the library’s budget” said Cardenas.

Now, the Library will charge minimal costs for some services, such as printing, Interlibary Loans requested and not picked up, and lost or damaged materials, though this charge will be waived if items are returned in good condition. Staff will exercise empathy and compassion when enforcing library policies around charges incurred on borrower accounts.

Library staff will work with all partners in the month of September and as well as with affected customers during the transition period. In most cases Library customers won’t notice much on their accounts, except that those with fees related to late or overdue materials will see them removed.

An official announcement of the new policy will be made by Mayor Jonathan Cote and Library Leadership as part of the Summer Reading Club Wrap-up party scheduled September 10, 2022, 1:30 – 3:00pm at the Queens Park Oval.

For more information, please visit www.nwpl.ca/finefree or contact Jorge Cardenas, Chief Librarian at 604-527-4675 or jcardenas@nwpl.ca.

We’re looking for volunteers to help suggest some changes to our website!

We want to make it easier for you to find what you need on our website.

To do this we would like to meet with you (virtually via zoom, or in person one-on-one) for no more than 15 minutes. You will be taken through a short set of tasks to see if what we are planning will actually make things easier for website visitors.

In-person meetings will be physically distanced, in our 2nd floor Gallery Room, and volunteers will be required to wear a mask for the duration of the session. Sanitization supplies will be available. If you prefer, we can meet over Zoom to complete the tasks.

If you are interested in participating we’d love to hear from you. Email askus@nwpl.ca or call 604-636-4342 and ask for Liz.

We thank you in advance for helping us improve our services to the community!

There are two construction projects currently underway at the library. We have provided some details and information related to each below:

Building Envelope Repair

When will the construction occur?

  • November 15 – January 2022

What is being done?

  • Work will be done to repair a leak into the lower level of the library and apply waterproofing to that same area.

How will this affect me?

  • Fencing and construction equipment will be set up in the area around the library parking lot as well as along the Ash Street Plaza. The pathway itself will remain open.
  • Landscaping has been temporarily removed from the area concerned and will be replaced once the project is complete.
  • Construction crews will be digging and at times drilling so there may be noise during their working hours of 7:30am – 4:30pm (though start times may vary according to weather).
  • As waterproofing is applied to the exterior area, there may be some smell from the material that is being used.


DVD Shelving Installation

When will the construction occur?

  • November 15 – 21

What is being done?

  • The shelves that house our DVD collection are being installed throughout our multi-media collection. They will prevent units from dropping behind the shelving, and reduce the amount of missing or lost items as a result.

How will this affect me?

  • DVD’s have been temporarily relocated, and there may be some disruption to accessing these and some CD’s during the week of November 15 – 21.
  • There may be noise in the library while the shelving is being assembled.

Questions? Please write to us at AskUs@nwpl.ca

We are thrilled to welcome our new Chief Librarian, Jorge Cardenas, who started at NWPL just after Thanksgiving. Jorge comes to us from Burnaby Public Library where he was the Manager of Community Development. So who is Jorge and what does he have planned for the NWPL? We wanted to know as much as you do, so we sat down to ask him!

What would you like the community to know about you?

I’m an immigrant in Canada who is still trying to understand the different communities and cultures around here. I love biking, reading and sports. I’m passionate about community development, anti-racism, and finding solutions for the climate crisis.

Where does your passion for libraries come from?

I have been a library user since I was a kid. Oaxaca (Mexico), my hometown, has many amazing libraries with great spaces, many books, movie screenings, and activities… it was easy to become a regular and to take advantage of the free and welcoming environment. It wasn’t until I came to Canada, however, that I thought about working in a library because as amazing as libraries are in Oaxaca, the concept of the library here includes things I wasn’t aware of: intellectual freedom, digital services, information hubs, support for immigrants and businesses and many more. Discovering that brought my passion to a new level.

What can you tell us about the Library’s new Strategic Plan?

I’m very excited about it! For me, the NWPL’s Strategic Plan both reflects my vision of what libraries should be and do, and it aligns with my career trajectory, so it’s a great fit. I’m looking forward to the work ahead where we figure out what this means for our day to day operations.

What’s the most pressing issue for libraries in Canada?

There are several things that are pressing, but as we emerge from the emergency phase of the COVID pandemic, one issue that I’m concerned about is how to recreate the library as a vital public space. When libraries were shut down because of the pandemic, one of the only types of public spaces that is open to everyone disappeared. It’s pretty clear how important that space is to inclusive and engaged communities, and its importance is even greater now as libraries provide resources for virtually-employed community members without a home office. I’m looking forward to seeing how library space can play an even more crucial role in Canadian society going forward.

What’s the thing about New Westminster that most piques your interest?

I am trying to eat my way around New West. I’m sure I’ll find great food of every kind but I’m trying to find excuses to talk to people and get to know the community better, and talking about what you eat or your next best meal are great topics and conversations starters.

I know you’re a cyclist, where do you like to ride in New West?

Before working here, I used to bike to the Quay and along the Waterfront, to Steel and Oak the local brewery, and a few times took the bike path that follows the Skytrain. Now, however, I want to bike every street of New West, every neighbourhood is beautiful and I think the city is very bikeable despite the terrible hills!

What have you been reading lately?

Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard and Inventario by Jose Emilio Pacheco. I always try to read one book in Spanish and one in English – I don’t want to lose touch with either my current reality or my heritage.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Anywhere, really, but I tend to read more in bed.

What are you looking forward to most about your role?

Getting to know the people I work with and the different communities in New West. This means also trying to find new and collaborative ways to understand  community needs and to solve those needs using the expertise library staff has.


Thanks so much for helping us get to know you a bit better, Jorge. A warm welcome from all of us here in New Westminster!