How to Serve the World @ your library

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Serving Non-English Speakers in U.S. Public Libraries

Top 10 "To-Do's"

  1. Hire bilingual library staff.  Recruit bilingual volunteers.  Make a telephone list of library staff members who speak other languages.
  2. Display “Welcome” signs, library activities and materials information in the languages spoken in your community.
  3. Smile, sincerely.  You will be speaking the universal language of kindness. 
  4. Assume no prior knowledge of libraries or lending policies.
  5. Provide library application forms and orientation materials in your library users’ native languages.  If cost is prohibitive, provide a template that labels the key information items.
  6. Honor the choice of each individual:  Ask whether a library user wants the library card application or flier in English or another language.
  7. Learn how to retrieve foreign language materials and resources at your library – what search terms to use in your public access computer (PAC), i.e., SUBJECT:  Chinese Language Materials.
  8. Know the holidays and festivals celebrated in your community.  Create displays to acknowledge and commemorate these.
  9. Contact your state, local municipal and social service agencies; ask for information materials printed in other languages for public distribution.  Locate online resources offering other language information, such as the Internal Revenue Service, Bureau of Motor Vehicles, etc.
  10. Get to know the community newspaper editor or reporters of other language weeklies:  They can provide free newspapers and translate and publish your program calendar in the paper’s community calendar.

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