Volunteers Shape Our Library Community

April 7-13, 2019, is Volunteer Appreciation Week at Halifax Public Libraries.

Throughout Volunteer Appreciation Week, branches of Halifax Public Libraries are hosting Volunteer Appreciation events to say thank you to our generous volunteers. Our volunteers help shape the community we live in, and have a meaningful impact on people’s lives by dedicating their time to support Library programs and services.

Here are just a few of our volunteers who go above and beyond in our community.

Florence Sassine

Volunteer at Halifax Central Library and Alderney Gate Public Library 

Florence Sassine (blue apron, right) volunteering at a Halifax Public Libraries food program for newcomers. Pictured with Emily Glover, Food Literacy Specialist (blue apron, left), and Tatjana Samardzic, Regional Newcomer Services Library Assistant, (red apron), along with 2 newcomer participants.

Florence Sassine’s family immigrated from Lebanon to Nova Scotia in 1966 when she was 8 years old. A volunteer at Library food programs for newcomers, and a tutor with our English Conversation Groups, Florence says public libraries were always a part of her life.

“I used to go to the bookmobile with my friends when I was in elementary school. During my high school and university years, I spent a great deal of time at the former Library on Spring Garden Road [Spring Garden Road Memorial Public Library] doing research, picking up books and meeting friends... It was such a community hub, even then.”

Florence is the former chief of protocol of Nova Scotia, and decided to give back to the community after retirement in 2014. “I was really lucky because the new Halifax Central Library officially opened at that time. When I checked out the volunteer opportunities, I discovered a natural link to my past work, with the English Conversation Group program” says Florence. “I was excited to volunteer for that program, because in addition to work experience, I understood the newcomer experience. I felt I had something to offer.”

One of Florence’s favourite parts of volunteering with Halifax Public Libraries is introducing and showcasing the province of Nova Scotia to newcomers. “When we offered our Tastes Like Home presentations to newcomers, we received such positive feedback. It was so much fun to have people connect regions of the province to the foods they eat and the cultural celebrations they attend,” says Florence. “We had people so enthusiastic they wanted to try making their own maple syrup! Emily Glover, Halifax Public Libraries’ Food Literacy Specialist, prepared some wonderful Nova Scotia dishes during these presentations. I can tell you: that was a highlight for everyone.”

Since volunteering with Halifax Public Libraries, Florence says she has met newcomers from all over the world and from all walks of life who are trying to make a home in Nova Scotia. Florence believes this volunteer work makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger. “Halifax Public Libraries is reaching out to so many community groups and I want to continue to contribute and be a part of that work. It matters.”

Florence mentions the library staff she has had the opportunity to work with are some of the most dedicated and supportive group of people she has met in both her professional career and in her volunteer work. “They excel at what they do and make volunteers understand their importance and value to the organization.” Florence gave a special shout out to Halifax Public Libraries staffperson, Tatjana Samardzic - Regional Newcomer Services Library Assistant; Emily Glover - Food Literacy Specialist; and Vaiva Galinienè - Information and Readers’ Services.

Thank you for everything you do in our community, Florence!

Qin Zhao

Volunteer at Halifax Central Library

Qin Zhao (second from left) with English Conversation Groups learners and fellow volunteer, Shilo.

Originally from China, Qin Zhao began attending English Conversation Groups (ECG) as a learner at Halifax Central Library in October 2017 to practice English and learn about Nova Scotia culture. Qin says that this program quickly became the highlight of her week and looked forward to meeting with the group every Thursday.

“It has been great in that it has helped me improve my English, but more importantly, I have met really wonderful people through this program. From Library staff and volunteers, to other newcomers, the relationships and connections to the community that I have formed are really rewarding.”

Qin decided to volunteer with English Conversation Groups since she enjoyed the program as a learner and wanted to take the opportunity to give back to the community. “When I overheard that the largest newcomer group in the class were Chinese people, I felt that I might be able to help… It has been a really amazing experience for me.”

Volunteering with English Conversation Groups, Qin mentions she have met so many great volunteers and learners. “Our volunteer team, Shilo, Yongju, Mahboubeh and both Victoria’s… always share their expertise with me in a patient and considerate way. We always choose suitable topics for newcomers living in Halifax,” says Qin. “As for the learners… Mr. Lim from Korea never misses a class. He always tries hard to participate in conversation despite his limited English and is always smiling and welcoming. Yingying, a newcomer from China, once told me that she had chatted with a new Korean friend for 3 hours in English. She barely spoke a handful of English words when she joined English Conversation Group a few months ago!”

Qin works closely with Vaiva Galinienè from Information and Readers’ Services at Central Library. “Vaiva is such a wonderful person… Anytime when I felt I needed more help or support, a helper is already sent to assist me by Vaiva. She is amazing! Other Library staff like Tatjana Samardzic, Sandy Crocker, and Cheryl have also given me a lot of support through organization and training.”

Thanks for volunteering with Halifax Public Libraries, Qin!

Wayne Putnam

Volunteer at Keshen Goodman Public Library 

Wayne Putnam volunteering with the Adult Literacy Program.

Wayne Putnam is originally from Truro, and has lived in Halifax since 1975. Wayne has been volunteering with both the English Language Learning program and Adult Literacy program for the past 6 years. Wayne learned about volunteering with Halifax Public Libraries through a friend and colleague who previously volunteered at the Spring Garden Road Memorial Public Library.

“I have been very rewarded to get to know newcomers from China, the Philippines, Eastern Europe, the Middle East ,and Africa. Most have been well-educated in their homeland and are very dedicated to making their way in Canadian society and economy” says Wayne. “My favourite part is seeing learners achieve their objectives, particularly when the objective is a measurable milestone, like a GED exam or work-related standard.”

Wayne has helped many people achieve personal and professional goals through volunteering with Halifax Public Libraries. Wayne says a “… memorable event occurred in my first year [of volunteering] when I helped a local young man, a stonemason, gain skills in writing exams so he could get his Red Seal certificate. That enabled him to move up the ladder and increase his income and flexibility.”

We appreciate everything you do for our community, Wayne!

For more information on how you can get involved and volunteer with Halifax Public Libraries call your local branch, opens a new window or check our current volunteer opportunities on our website., opens a new window