Speaking Your Language: Illinois Library Reflects its Community’s Diversity Through Collections and Services

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The Eisenhower Public Library District (EPLD) in Norridge and Harwood Heights, Illinois, serves a diverse array of foreign-language speakers, with more than 50% of its residents speaking a language other than English at home, including Italian, Polish, and Spanish.

Penny Blubaugh, teen and programming librarian at EPLD, says, “It’s a very diverse population. We’re almost like the first community you come to, a welcoming community to the United States.”

That diversity is reflected in the library’s collection. EPLD has a large collection of foreign-language materials in both the adult services area and its kids’ section. The library collects French, Italian, Polish, and Spanish books and has one of the most extensive Polish collections in the Chicago area. These materials include translations of popular English-language authors as well as works originally created in other languages.

Through funding from the American Dream Starts @ your library initiative, the library has been able to expand its English as a second language (ESL) collection and begin hosting English-language learning programs, emphasizing this commitment with the slogan “Eisenhower speaks your language.”The library offers ESL iPods that patrons can check out and use to learn on their own. The program is also available on CD for use on EPLD’s computers. The available courses are English for Arabic, Cantonese, Farsi, French, German, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese speakers.

EPLD also offers programs through the US Citizenship and Immigration Services that resulted in the creation of an immigration kit.“They have been incredibly helpful,” Blubaugh says. “Immigration was thrilled with them, and the people who attended and came out were so happy with these programs.”

She says the library is continuing the program and is trying to increase its collection of foreign-language books, especially in Arabic, Italian, Polish, and Spanish.

For more information, view the following video or visit the American Dream Starts @ your library toolkit.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, including how to make a donation.