Effective Strategies to Serve Immigrant Populations

Professional associations around the nation are coordinating efforts to train librarians on how to serve immigrants. I applaud these efforts which are much needed in light of the latest Census Bureau statistics: currently, 13% of the US population is foreign-born. It is expected that percentages will increase even more dramatically in the next few years.

Last June 5, as part of its professional development courses, METRO, the Metropolitan New York Library Council presented a class titled Effective Strategies to Serve Immigrant Populations: Approaches for Public and Academic Libraries by Loida Garcia-Febo.

The purpose of the class was to provide guidelines to improve service to non-English-speaking customers from different ethnicities, provide appropriate programming based on proven methods, and develop high quality multilingual collections.

The goal was for participants to:

  • Learn more about the effect of cultural differences on library services.
  • Develop competencies to serve multiethnic and multilingual populations.
  • Identify programming resources and guidelines.
  • Learn how to develop collections in international languages.

Attendees included public and museum librarians, LIS students, and a non-librarian whose work is to secure grants for libraries. I am used to see mostly public librarians at the classes and I take the mix among participants as a good sign of change.

Sharing ideas and suggestions on how to serve immigrants from different ethnic backgrounds was wonderful. There are so many ways to reach out to ethnic populations! It goes beyond developing collections in international languages or programming for multi ethnic populations. We must be able to enter the immigrants’ world to find out what they really need. That’s the key to effective planning of services.

I was glad to be able to pick participants’ curiosity to explore ways on how to serve immigrants. We had a good exchange of ideas good for all library settings represented. I can’t wait to hear what they’ve done. I promise I’ll post more on this here!


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