Public libraries are an important entry point to community services for new Americans. Programs provided through public libraries can serve as a portal to a wide range of community resources that are vital to a family’s economic self-sufficiency. Services to new Americans often involve English language classes; intergenerational literacy, foreign language GED instruction, and other basic skills training. Public libraries often serve as informal referral centers as well, directing immigrants to area support services (p. 15).
Services to New Populations
A significant amount of workforce development activity in local libraries centers on job search skills, basic computer instruction and workplace literacy. Ninety-two percent (92%) of the libraries answering the survey provide basic computer instruction on a regular basis (at least monthly); 50% of the libraries provide workplace literacy instruction; and 42% provide workplace literacy instruction specifically to English language learners. Most of these literacy training and other specialized workshops are provided in library facilities, though often conducted in partnership with local agencies (p. 14).
People must continually educate themselves, upgrade their skills, and reorient themselves to new realities. Interviews with patrons demonstrated that many individuals who were unemployed used the library as a home base to explore employment opportunities, even receiving cell phone calls in the library about job interviews. There was also much evidence that patrons were using the library as a place to make the transition into Canadian society, particularly through the learning of English. For instance, the seating sweeps in Vancouver revealed that a large number of patrons (more than half on many sweeps) in the library on any given day were involved in studying English. The central library, then, acts as a place where individuals in transition can feel included and productive in a way that would be almost impossible in other public spaces, such as cafes, parks, museums, arenas, and municipal offices (p. 354).