New Immigrants

Resources for serving new immigrants.

In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 13%, or over 40 million people, in the U.S. were immigrants, defined as people residing in the U.S. who were not U.S. citizens at birth. This is about the same percentage as when ALA published The Polish Immigrant and His Reading, by Eleanor E. Ledbetter, (ALA, 1924), as part of the series, “Library work with the foreign born.” (We also published similar titles for Greek, Italian, and German immigrants.) As noted in Library services for immigrants a report on current practices. (U.S. CIS, 2006), "Public libraries in the United States have a long history of providing resources and education to immigrants. This tradition may be traced to Andrew Carnegie’s support for public libraries as a place for immigrant self-education, enlightenment, and the study of democracy and English."

The need for services remains, and today includes supporting community information referral services, English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, job search assistance, literacy classes, assistance with gaining citizenship, and, of course, the traditional reading for entertainment and enlightenment.

Since January 2007, the American Library Association (ALA), in partnership with the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, has funded 100 libraries in 28 states through American Dream grants. Each library received a onetime grant of $5,000 to add or improve literacy services to adult English language learners and their families. With these grants, the libraries expanded ESL collections, taught classes, hosted conversation circles, trained tutors, increased computer access, build community partnerships, and raised the library’s visibility.

ALA Policy Statements

ALA Council Resolution (ALA CD#20.2): Resolution in Support of Immigrant Rights (PDF) -- Adopted by the American Library Association Council on Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Select Bibliography on Library Services to New Immigrants

Arnold, Renea, and Nell Colburn. "The Neglected Ones." School Library Journal (July 2012): 15.

Ashton, Rick J. and Daniel Patrick Milam ''Welcome Stranger: Public Libraries Build the Global Village.'' Chicago: Urban Libraries Council, January 2008. (PDF, 1020KB; accessed May 2, 2013)

Burke, Susan K. "Use of Public Libraries by Immigrants." Reference & User Services Quarterly. Volume 48, issue 2 (Winter 2008), p. 164-174.

Cuban, Sondra. Serving New Immigrant Communities in the Library. Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited, 2007.

Hammond-Todd, Sheila. "Immigrant Services in Public Libraries." Mississippi Libraries 72, no. 2 (Summer2008 2008): 36-38.

Hoffert, Barbara. "Immigrant Nation: How public libraries select materials for a growing population whose first language is not English." Library Journal v. 133, no. 14 (September 1, 2008), p. 34-36. (Accessed May 2, 2013)

Kong, Luis. "Failing to Read Well." Public Libraries 52, no. 1 (January 2013): 40-44.

PLA Service Response Workbook: Welcome to the United States: Services for New Immigrants (self-directed online workbook; fee)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Institute of Museum and Library Services (U.S.). Library services for immigrants a report on current practices. [Washington, D.C.]: Office of Citizenship, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2006. (Accessed May 2, 2013)

Winkel, Anna. "Lessons on Evaluating Programs and Collections for Immigrant Communities at the Queens Borough Public Library." Colorado Libraries 33, no. 1 (January 2007): 43-46.

Additional references

News stories and blog posts

Bibliographies for Readers Advisory

American Dream Starts @ your library, Print and Digital Resources from 34 libraries. 2010. (PDF) "This annotated list, the first of its kind, is an enormous contribution to the thousands of librarians and educators providing literacy services for adult English language learners." (Accessed May 2, 2013)

Contemporary Immigrant Experiences in Children’s Books, prepared by the EMIERT Children’s Committee, June 2006. (Accessed May 2, 2013)

New Immigrant Resources, a book list developed by the ALSC Library Service to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers Committee in about 2006

Internet Resources

Background information

Migration Information Source -- offers useful tools, vital data, and essential facts on the movement of people worldwide. (Accessed May 1, 2013)

Urban Institute -- Reports on Immigrants (Accessed May 15,2013)

Links to external agencies that may be useful when working with new immigrants

American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) (Accessed May 2, 2013)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services especially the Citizenship Information Center (Accessed May 1, 2013) and the Civics and Citizenship Toolkit (Accessed July 3, 2013)

U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review along with its Virtual Law Library. (Accessed May 2, 2013)

Last updated July 3, 2013