Transforming Lives Through Partnerships: Libraries are uniquely positioned to serve new immigrants and other adult English-language learners.

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Reprinted Courtesy of: American Libraries Magazine

”At the library, we are able to tap into all of our community’s resources, develop relationships and pull them together around literacy.” —Maria Simon, Wood County District Public Library, Ohio

Library staff at the Wood County District Public Library reached out to local ESL teachers to ask what materials it should purchase with funds from the American Dream Starts @ your library grant. 

“Those phone calls introduced teachers to what the library could do for them,” said Maria Simon, American Dream project coordinator. As a result of this personal appeal, many teachers now make sure to bring their ESL classes to the library to sign up for library cards.

Although the library has a new bookmobile, the library’s old bookmobile is on the road serving migrant families. A local citizen purchased the bookmobile with the intention of serving migrant camps, and a natural partnership with the library was established. Because the “volunteer” bookmobile was able to cover additional ground, the library began an informal book drive to get it stocked with appropriate materials. When library patrons learned about it, they initiated their own book drive to support the library’s American Dream program.

 “What the American Dream grant really did was help us build relationships in the community. It gave us a reason to pick up the phone with potential partners serving adult English-language learners and ask, ‘What do you need? How can we help you?’We can’t even begin to account for the number of lives we touched.” —Maria Simon, Wood County District Public  Library, Ohio

Onondaga County Public Library system serves an overall population of 147,000, and 13.8 percent of that population speaks a language other than English at home. The Central Library houses a large collection of adult literacy materials for use by tutors and learners. By collaborating with Literacy Volunteers of Greater Syracuse, the library built a partnership that provides trainings for adult literacy tutors and expanded literacy instruction. The tutors helped adult learners acquire computer and literacy skills. As a direct result of these new skills, two graduates of the library’s computer class found jobs. In addition, adult learners were able to work independently, thanks to new audio and visual materials that helped them hear and “see” the sounds of the language. The American Dream Starts @ your library grant allowed the library to acquire tools and develop successful programs that changed the lives of patrons and enhanced the experiences of adult literacy tutors in the community.