Removing Barriers to Access

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This article is part of the American Dream Series. The American Dream Starts @ your library grant helped many libraries—for the first time—to reach out to immigrant communities and other adult English-language learners.


Through bookmobiles and branches embedded in the heart of communities, libraries ensure equitable access to education and chances for self-improvement for everyone.


A first stop for individuals who are not comfortable in traditional educational settings

El Paso Public Library’s bookmobile makes regular stops in neighborhoods throughout its city of 800,000, where 28 percent of the population lives below the poverty level and one in three adults is functionally illiterate. The library offers classes for adult learners at all branch locations, but lack of transportation makes it difficult for some patrons to attend.

The American Dream Starts @ your library grant made it possible for the bookmobile to purchase laptops for conducting job searches, filling out job applications and computer training. Thanks to the American Dream grant, El Paso resident Georgina Gaytan first used a computer on El Paso’s bookmobile.

Her daughter Paulina has since introduced her to search engines, email, and basic computer skills. El Paso resident Armando Vargas uses the bookmobile’s laptops to take practice CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) tests and to complete homework assignments.


Offering hope to non-English speakers

“Our goal is to remove any barriers–either physical or perceived–to learning English.” —Margaret Masserini, library director

As part of the American Dream Starts @ your library program, the Salem County bookmobile added two new stops to its 43-stop route–one at a local convenience store and a second at a church–in order to reach one of the county’s most vulnerable groups: migrant workers. Salem County Public Library Bookmobile

The library stocked the bookmobile with materials purchased with funds from the American Dream Starts @ your library grant: new dictionaries, phrase books, language videos, and Spanish-English fiction books.

“In this economy, our county is really suffering. There is simply more and more need. Because of these new resources and our bookmobile, we can help meet one small part of that need. We want the library to be seen as a welcoming place and to give non-English speakers hope that they can learn English,” said Margaret.


Using the bookmobile for bilingual outreach.

Serving two rural counties in eastern North Carolina, the Pasquotank-Camden Library used the American Dream Starts @ your library grant to expand existing partnerships in the community. The library’s bookmobile now makes monthly visits to La Casa, an outreach organization that serves a rising Hispanic population. A bilingual library staffer accompanies the bookmobile librarian as they distribute Spanish and bilingual materials and help adults sign up for library cards. The bookmobile outreach generated an increase in Hispanic patrons visiting the main Pasquotank-Camden Library.


A focus on family literacy to change a community

The six branches of the Boone County Public Library in northern Kentucky serve an Hispanic population that has doubled since 2000. The library’s Community Center on Wheels (CCOW) provides library services to low-income housing developments, child care centers, private and public schools, parks and recreation areas, and churches and community centers. With the help of the American Dream Starts @ your library grant, the CCOW focused its efforts on family literacy, making monthly visits to areas with a high number of Hispanic families, providing activities and free bilingual books and magazines to children. The library has also purchased additional bilingual materials for CCOW, allowing the mobile library to enhance services to foreign-born residents and households that speak a language other than English.