A Proposal to Investigate Polish Immigrants' Experiences of Public Libraries in Edmonton

Research Problem

The goal of this study is to analyze whether or not Polish immigrants' experiences in and attitudes toward public libraries in Communist Poland influence their experiences in, attitudes toward, and needs from public libraries in Edmonton. Existing research examines the impositions of the Polish Communist government on libraries (Czarnik 2001, Kolodziejska 1995a, Kolodziejska 1995b, Nowacki-Chmielowiec 1998, Sroka 2000), but does not explore how the impact of Communist Polish public libraries has affected Polish immigrants’ experiences with Canadian public libraries, in the manner of Keren Dali's study on Russian immigrants in Toronto (Dali 2004). The few studies which explore Polish immigrants' user needs and programs developed for such communities were conducted in Great Britain (Listwon and Sen 2009) and Chicago (Tarsitano 1998). These studies cannot adequately translate to the experiences of Poles in Canada, since the British study was conducted by focusing mostly on the community of recent labour migrants, and Chicago is anomalous in its high concentration of Polish inhabitants, second only to Warsaw, Poland (Tarsitano 1998, para. 3). Although Listwon and Sen did interview five participants who had immigrated to England after the Second World War (292), the majority of their participants, namely fifty-two, were immigrants who had moved after Poland joined the European Union in 2004 (Listwon and Sen 2009, 290, 291). Moreover, a non-Canadian context may mean significant differences between Poles in Canada and elsewhere. This project is designed to inform public libraries in Edmonton about the specific needs of Polish immigrants that may stem from their experiences in Communist controlled libraries, and to provide recommendations as to how to address these needs and promote use of the libraries by this community. It uses a qualitative framework, because this study aims to accommodate the varied experiences of its participants and their expressions, and all possible answers cannot be adequately represented by imposing artificial standards of control, as in a quantitative framework.

This study will benefit LIS scholarship by exploring the attitudes and needs of a seldom studied ethno-linguistic group that has a significant presence in Canada (Statistics Canada 2006). It will also benefit LIS practice by informing public librarians about this community's specific needs, and by suggesting possible means of helping Polish immigrants use public libraries more effectively.