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14 March 2006 

Whilst non-profits and religious groups may receive government funding to help immigrants, libraries have contributed by offering free classes, citizenship materials and books in their native language. However, one must realize that "immigrants" is not a large, homogeneous group and that there are other factors to consider (the U.S. as an example):

1) The length of time the immigrants from a particular country have been around; immigrants with a more established community in the U.S. may not see the need to get outside their community. They can be hard to attract, especially if the group is insular.

Contact prominent business leaders of that community and local student organizations and share library information with them. Certain groups get their information by word of mouth from other members of their community. Get a buzz going!

2) Children of immigrants might be comfortable speaking English and have no interest in materials in the language of their parents. Also, the children may act as translators for other family members. Realize that by attracting the children, you might get the parents into the library!

3) Libraries are not equal around the world; the concept of a free library is not universal. You may have to educate groups about your services. Representing the library at cultural events and making friends with members of the group will help spread the buzz.

4) Some immigrants work two or more jobs and attending workshops would mean sacrificing family time. Weekend programs can help and computer classes in a different language help!

5) "Immigrants" does not always mean poor refugees, who do not speak English. Globalization has already meant that the movement of people between countries is a fact of life. Some immigrants may not enter the library for the same reasons natives do not come - Internet access at home, unaware of library services, Google-addicts and so forth.

Why listen to me about this topic? Because it is an issue close to heart since I am an immigrant myself :)