Friday, July 18, 2008

“Welcome Stranger” - immigrant outreach

Earlier this year, the Urban Libraries Council published a look at public library strategies that help communities successfully welcome New Americans. "Welcome, Stranger: Public Libraries Build the Global Village" is a guide to finding the areas in which libraries can make a difference and identifying programs that turn ideas into action."

I can compare some of our current local activities, even while looking for opportunities:
  • Our library is a member of a local diversity organization, Toward Community, which is holding its annual "Celebrate Diversity" picnic this Sunday. One of the organizers just checked out CDs from the library's collection of world music to play at the picnic. The library & TC have done many joint programs.
  • APL is also active in the Fox Cities Rotary Multicultural Center, which on August 23 will hold their annual fundraiser, "Foods of All Nations" on downtown streets near the library. Contact us if you want tickets!
  • For the second consecutive year, our library will host a local visit by the Consulate General of Mexico, which will help Mexican citizens renew their official papers without traveling hundreds of miles. The visit, planned in conjunction with our Mayor's office and local Hispanic organizations, will be Oct. 2-5.
  • We did some innovative work providing the Prime Time Family Reading program for emergent readers and families in a multilingual format
  • We have developed, and are close to unveiling, our Hmong Resource Center collection. Our staff, working in concert with the local Hmong community, has been doing a great job.
The ULC work "Welcome, Stranger" identifies five strategies for successful immigrant inclusion and community adaptation, including
  1. Understand Local Immigration Dynamics
  2. Bring Sensitivity to Service Delivery (effective promotion using first languages of immigrants)
  3. Build English Capacity
  4. Create Connections to Local Institutions
  5. Encourage Civic Engagement
The ULC website says:
Authors Rick J. Ashton and Danielle Patrick Milam, both of ULC, note, "Using their historic role as strong, unbiased public spaces, dedicated to learning and exploration, they [libraries] are fostering public discussion of the challenges faced by both newcomers and the communities receiving them."
and quotes ULC President Martin Gómez:
"It's clear that the public library has an important and vital role to play in providing essential library services as well as directing immigrants to resources in their new communities"

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