Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter Library Project

The Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter (CWES) opened as a small shelter in 1973 and has grown since then to serve over 12,800 Calgarians in need annually. Its vision is to see a “community free from family violence and abuse” (CWES). They offer a wide range of services from child care and legal support to male counselling to help break the abuse cycle. The CWES relies on donations and government funding to support its daily operations. Last spring, I had a chance to meet with some staff representatives about funding and creating a resource centre for the women and children.

Once the idea was approved, I started on a comprehensive training program that is mandatory for all volunteers and staff members. The CWES believes that as volunteers, we need to be proactive about abuse in the community, and the way to ensure excellence of service is to make sure we are all able to respond to situations.

In September, the members of the FLA voted in favour of having the CWES act as the ‘adopted charity’ of the year. We put out a donation box at events and aim to raise additional funds so we can create a revolving collection in the shelter and the main offices.

The actual creation of the resource centre began slowly. We got a huge head start on building a collection with the proceeds of the University of Calgary’s Business library and Downtown Campus library’s book sales for a total of almost $1000. In order to develop a library that meets the needs of a diverse and vulnerable clientele, I met with some members of the team to make sure we chose appropriate books. We wanted to create a balance of fun and helpful. I imagined it as a place women could go in the middle of the night if they were unable to sleep or a place where they could find a book to read to their children.

Now that the CWES community is aware of the library, donations are flowing in. United Library Service has donated quite a few titles. I spend two hours every two weeks sorting through boxes of books to find the right balance between support and leisure and meeting with clients to discover their reading needs.

Although this started as a literacy project, I have found that the CWES has become part of my life. I try to volunteer with various aspects of the organization from their casino night, to running the Scotiabank 10-K in May with members of the Business library at the University of Calgary.

Rhiannon Jones is the EMBA/MBA Liaison librarian at the University of Calgary. She also serves as the FLA Vice-president.

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