Serving Emerging Bilingual community members and patrons is a big job for libraries, especially for small and rural libraries that may be lacking in resources, training, and money. We are assembling some material here to help you get started; and we are available to consult with you about things you could add to your library.
(Check out our podcast for some more information on this topic!)
As with all library service, the best thing to do is to reach out to the community you want to serve. Look around your specific community (your town, your school, your university – wherever you are working), and find out some of the demographics. This can help you provide better service in general!
Minnesota has more than 100 different languages spoken at home, so you can be sure people speak more languages than just English in your community. If your community has many members who speak another language at home, you need to be providing your services in that language, and you need to be working on getting these people to come volunteer and/or work in your library. Reach out to individuals and to community groups, and ask people what would help them to use your library’s services.
This is a large commitment, but it is important for quality service.
- Ideally, your website is available in more languages than English.
- At the least, your applications for library cards are definitely available in multiple languages that are appropriate to your area. (If your community members are speaking Ojibwe and Arabic, offering material in Russian and Farsi is not useful.)
- Signs in your library should be in multiple languages (everyone should be able to find the bathroom!).
- Books and programs available in native languages spoken in your community are important, and bilingual materials and resources would be great ways to help people learn English.
- Everyone should learn a few words in languages spoken in your community. Learning “Welcome to the library!” and other quick phrases would be good; a few basic nouns will get your surprisingly far: book, bathroom, computer – whatever you can use to easily direct people around the library to good services!
Partnering with community organizations, and with other libraries, to provide English language classes, or conversation circles allowing people to come work on the English with other people and to learn about the idiosyncrasies of the United States and of your region.
Here a few resources you might use as you plan your own good library service:
- ALA Tips and Tools for good library service
- ALA: The American dream starts in your library
- RUSA Guidelines for Library Services to Spanish-Speaking Library Users
- A student website, with some basic info on ESL services and some examples of library service
- Lessons and flashcards you can download to help you teach classes (This is a subscription service; you might find other resources, but we want to show you different things you could consider for ideas!)
Do you want to talk to us about this topic now?? Just fill out the comment box below, and we will be ready to help you!