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Immigrant-Friendly Libraries


Immigration is changing urban libraries in this country as well as public schools.

"Welcome, Stranger: Public Libraries Build The Global Village," a report published by the Chicago-based Urban Libraries Council, tells how libraries are reaching out to immigrants by providing computer and English classes, integrating books written in foreign languages into their collections, and hiring bilingual staff members. (It takes a couple of minutes to download the 20-page report.)

This report is a reminder that it's a good idea for educators to be aware of resources offered to immigrant families through their local public libraries. In Oakland, Calif., for example, the public library offers bilingual computer classes in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Korean. In Detroit, the library reaches out to immigrant mothers by providing both English and life skills classes for them.

I've been part of the effort of urban libraries to serve immigrants. For two years, through a local literacy council, I tutored three immigrant woman in English once a week at the Bethesda, Md., public library, a few blocks from my workplace. The library provided a free space for us to meet, and we relied on books and tapes from its collection to support the classes.

One of my students had school-age children, and she tapped into her developing English-language skills to support her children's education, such as in figuring out how to sign her son up for SAT-prep classes. She showed me how an immigrant parent can make a little English go a long way in helping her children.


I'm not going to download a 118Meg PDF, but maybe someone can tell me whether the report discusses librarians acting as useful idiots for foreign governments.

For background, see this: city-journal.org/html/15_4_mexico.html

Libraries have been running literacy programs for some time now; however, I have found that they have long lists of individuals waiting for a volunteer. People I have referred to library programs have literally waited years. My other concern is that volunteers have little training for second language learners. Some programs conduct good training and others don't.

For the most part, immigrants benefit from programs at the library. Spending one-on-one time with a native speaker of English helps with language learning and navigating through the demands of life (filling out forms, school related letters etc.). It's a great service.

Libraries provide many resources to the public. One of the greatest resource is the one that allows immigrants to advance in their education. I've seen libraries that offer classes for immigrants to take take the GED. I've also seen many material that helps immigrants in their native language. This resource will help the future generations to come.

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