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Ideas for a healthy city

What makes your city a healthy place to live? Social connections, walkability, bike lanes, transit, healthy food options, employment, traffic patterns and parking all contribute to the health of a city and the people who live there.

In January, our current Guest Librarian Robin Mazumder, hosted a Healthy Cities Panel Discussion at Central Library.

To kick off the evening, Robin announced a new healthy cities project he has brought to Kitchener: Lightbrary. Robin partnered with the Waterloo Region Local Health Integration Network and the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre to secure funding for light therapy lamps free to use at any Kitchener Public Library location. Research shows that daily use of light therapy lamps during the winter can be an effective treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
Learn more about Robin’s term as Guest Librarian and the Lightbrary project. 

The event included experts in the field and a discussion on ways we can make Kitchener a vibrant, healthy and happy city. Speakers and panelists includes Dr. Colin Ellard (Psychology) and Dr. Leia Minaker (Planning) from the University of Waterloo and Rod Regier, Commissioner of Planning, Development and Legislative Services for the Region of Waterloo.

“Cities are, by definition, full of strangers.” ~ Jane Jacobs

Dr. Ellard talked about the ways living in a city can change our brains. “There’s a mismatch between our brains and the structure of cities,” he said. Social isolation is on the rise in cities, and is one of the reasons healthy cities research and conversation is so important.

Dr. Minaker talked about the need to consider equity in the concept of a healthy city. Is it a healthy city for people who have lower incomes, or for people with disabilities? Is healthy food easily accessible? “People in Waterloo Region, on average, live one kilometre from a grocery store,” she said. In many places, it’s easier to access fast food or junk food than healthy food. This is known as a “food swamp.”

Rod Regier talked about the Region of Waterloo’s official plan, which focuses on reurbanization and intensification. He also talked about the Ion, the region’s rapid transit project, “the most profound city-building project we’ve ever undertaken.”

The night wrapped up with questions from the community about gentrification and affordable housing, light pollution, and neighbourhood strategies. People who attended also had a chance to contribute their healthy city ideas (see photo above). The ideas included:

  • More community centres
  • More greenery, community gardens, trails, parks, and recreation infrastructure
  • More walkable – better side walk maintenance and snow removal
  • More animal friendly locations; green space, dog parks, animal friendly cafes
  • Ensure new developments include space for gardens, woodlots
  • Inclusive & colourful spaces
  • More garbage, recycling and compost bins on the streets, making it easy to recycle on the go
  • Public fire places
  • Mobile food market with leftovers from Kitchener Market on Saturday afternoons
  • Have more community markets open on weekends and evenings
  • Have more cafes and small businesses – give the opportunity to open in our communities
  • Book mobile; back again please
  • Create more opportunities for citizens to share their gifts and talents without red tape like the Taco Stand project by Cambridge Idea Exchange – check it out!
  • More frequent transit locally
  • Better transit connections to Toronto
  • Integrating students and long-term residents: well off and less well-off
  • Universities could do more to reach out to low-income local students
  • Shared maker/hacker spaces; shared tools
  • Create venues where people can interact with different people: seniors & IT staff & youth & professors, etc.
  • Lighting ordinances that align with the concepts of the international dark skies association to control light pollution and trespass
  • Make streets safer for cyclists
  • Dedicated cycling lanes

We’d like to thank Robin for hosting and organizing the event, our speakers, and everyone who attended or followed along on Twitter. Please stay connected to this very important topic:

RESOURCES

Find out more about Robin Mazumder and his research: Do skyscrapers stress you out?

Healthy Cities:  Books and films from the KPL collection

Sign up to stay up-to-date with @PsychOnStreet projects: bit.ly/urbanrealities

TWITTER   #HealthyCities
@RobinMazumder        @WhereAmINow      @LeiaMinaker        @regierr


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Holiday happiness

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Happy Holidays! Our holiday hours begin this Saturday. Please check whether we’re open before heading to your local library any time from Saturday, Dec. 24 to Monday, Jan. 2.

While we’re open, stop in and stock up on books, movies, and music, or try out our new virtual reality experience. We’ve also got plenty of fun, fabulous, and (as always!) FREE activities for people of all ages.

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Polar vortex holiday party

During an onslaught of snow, wind, and chilly temperatures last week, a group of our amazing volunteers held a warm and cosy holiday party at Central Library for the participants in English Conversation Circles.

English Conversation Circles are a great way for newcomers in the community to practise English in a relaxed, supportive, and informal setting. These groups are run with the support of YMCA Immigrant Services and our incredible volunteers, many of whom are teachers or retired teachers.

Volunteers at Central Library planned a party complete with snacks and drinks, crafts, and gifts for the children – a lovely opportunity to talk about and share holiday traditions from different cultures.

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Party in the Stacks

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Andrea Bellemare of CBC-KW, Sam Allen from the band Run Coyote, and our amazing MC, Craig Norris of CBC-KW

This fall, we held a fundraising kick-off party for our new digital media studio, Studio Central, and we’re overwhelmed with the support we saw from this community. Party in the Stacks was a big success, thanks to so many of you. See the photos below.

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ImagineIt: a connected, creative community

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Just imagine it: an entire community that connects through words, stories, songs, and visual art.

This month, the City of Kitchener and Kitchener Public Library launch ImagineIt Kitchener programming, with literacy events taking place throughout Kitchener to connect citizens and inspire creativity.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Kitchener Public Library to provide a wide range of events throughout the year,” says Jeff Young, manager, Kitchener events. “With multiple events in different locations we aim to connect neighbours, encourage community building, and support literacy.”

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Accessibility: BrowseAloud

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GUEST BLOG POST BY GARY BAUMAN, WEB SERVICES LIBRARIAN

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You may have noticed an icon on the Kitchener Public Library website, at the top of every page. This is the icon for BrowseAloud, a service which we have had for some time.

For those unfamiliar with it, BrowseAloud is an accessibility tool which allows users who have difficulty reading text on computer screens to have the content on a web page read aloud to them. Users can control whether the entire page is read, or just selected portions of the text.

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Happy Canada Day: Welcoming newcomers

9 A conversation circle

We’d like to wish everyone a happy Canada Day, especially newcomers to Canada who are celebrating with us for the first time.

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve received a grant of $20,470 from the Immigration Partnership Council that we’ll be using to host English conversation circles for Syrian newcomers, beginning this fall. The grant funding will be used to pay for translation services, new resources,  and bus tickets for participants.

On June 24, Premier Kathleen Wynne visited Central Library and met with six local Syrian families for a private conversation circle of their own.

With an Arabic translator on hand, Premier Wynne said “We want you to fell welcome, and we want you to feel that you have opportunities.”

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