Leverage Your Programs

graphic of person at podiumOffering programs that address the needs and wants of immigrant and refugee groups is an effective way to communicate to these groups that the library is a welcoming space, especially when libraries pay close attention and listen to these groups to improve their offerings2. Initial work around leveraging public library programming to draw in and serve immigrant groups has indicated that programming may be useful in helping with building trust and understanding of the library, library staff, and the greater community3. Indeed, many immigrants report that attending programs is their first interaction with libraries in their new home country1. There’s also indication that immigrants and refugees are more likely to come back to the library after being involved in one program, having better understood how to use and participate in the library space, resources, and programs4. Immigrant-led cultural programming has proven to be highly effective at fulfilling immigrant groups’ needs for relevant offerings, and provides a sense of empowerment5.

Our forum participants recommend considering the following when creating programming for immigrant and refugees:

  • Talk with community members and leaders to understand what they need or want
  • Provide multilingual programs or services
  • Time programs to fit around family work and home schedules
  • Use food as a cultural sharing point and program attractant
  • Support family’s transportation to the program, or consider moving the program to a community location
  • Offer programs that appeal to the whole family, including intergenerational families

Learn more about how to leverage your programs from these real life examples and other resources:

Example or Resource Short Description
ALA’s New Americans Library Project White Paper An initiative of ALA and New Knowledge Organization, the New Americans Library Project presents a white paper with a number of recommendations around how to improve and build equitable services for immigrant and refugee populations.

The Programming Librarian This post profiles a variety of different library programs designed around reaching and working with diverse immigrant populations including offering legal advice, to a book club, to offering a weekly conversation group for English language learners, and others.
The Library Service to Underserved Children and their Caregivers (LSUCTC) Toolkit This toolkit provides concrete recommendations to better support programming for children and families that belong to immigrant groups including recommendations for read-alouds, apps, materials for programming and spaces, and links to examples of successful programs for new Americans.

The Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees: The Role of Cultural Organisations, Acesso Cultura

This freely available English translation was made available through the Network of European Museum Organisations. It profiles ten case studies of cultural museums or organizations who were working to incorporate refugee and migration issues into their work through exhibits, programming, and more.