American Dream Series: Strengthening Relationships Between Libraries and Volunteers



ESL students find new roles as volunteers 

With nearly 400 volunteers, the Mt. Lebanon Public Library has a strong base of volun- teers. Through its American Dream project, it acquired a few more volunteers from a place it didn’t expect: through its ESL classes and English conversation groups.

Some students who are just beginning to speak English have turned out to be enthusiastic volunteers, eager to contribute to their new communities. Students have helped with recycling, organizing books and magazines and other tasks. An adult English student from Japan and the daughter of an English student from Syria teamed up to present a class on origami at the library after the Japanese student noticed the girl’s interest in it.


ESL volunteers are library leaders

The Cordova Branch Library of the Memphis Public Library and Information Center serves a community in which 7.3 percent of the population speaks a language other than English at home.

Funds from the American Dream Starts @ your library grant enabled the branch to expand its ESL service with a new program called “English for Me,” designed to help non-native English speakers become more proficient in English in order to get better jobs, advocate for their children in school, address health issues with doctors, and become more adept at using library resources. Volunteers with prior ESL-teaching experience stepped forward to teach classes and run pronunciation workshops.


Advocates promote library’s value 

The Plainfield Public Library made a commitment to recruit literacy tutors after a literacy agency in the next county agreed to provide tutor training. As a result, the library ended up with 30 new library advocates; volunteers who had not previously been connected to the library have now become a volunteer corps passion- ate about the value of the library. “They pass that passion along to their English students,” said assistant library director Lisa Pappas.