Diversity & Outreach Columns ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services

28Oct/13Off

On the Road with The American Dream Starts @ your library: Berwyn Pubilc Library

By John Amundsen, OLOS Program Officer

The American Dream Starts @ your library blog header

Exclusive OLOS Columns Series

On Tuesday, Oct. 22,  OLOS visited its second library as part of our On The Road series, this time to Berwyn Public Library in Chicago's West suburbs. Over half of population in the area served by BPL  speaks English as a second language. To meet this need, BPL applied and received funding from The American Dream Starts @ your library initiative, which it in turn used to increase its adult literacy collection, purchase technology including iPads and a smart screen, and provide citizenship courses in the library.

On the day of our visit, BPL hosted a mock citizenship interview with Amy Stern with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service for both students and tutors, in order to provide a better idea of what to expect during the interview and how best to prepare.

The newest American Dream libraries join a cohort of 100 previously funded programs in Dollar General communities. These American Dream libraries built easily replicable programs, developed coalition-building strategies and provided annotated lists of proven resources for libraries across the country serving adult English language learners.

15Oct/13Off

On the Road with The American Dream Starts @ your library: Schaumburg Township District Library

by John Amundsen, OLOS Program Officer

The American Dream Starts @ your library blog header

Exclusive OLOS Columns Feature

On Friday, September 20th, the OLOS team had the honor of attending the third Naturalization Ceremony held at the Schaumburg Township District Library in Chicago's Northwest Suburbs.  STDL is a two-time recipient of The American Dream Starts @ your library, a grant initiative from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and ALA geared towards the improvement and promotion of library service to English language learners in areas served by Dollar General stores.  In 2013, ALA selected 44 public libraries in 21 states to receive one-time grants of $5,000 to $15,000 to add or expand literacy services for the adult English language learners in their communities. This funding will help libraries build their print and digital ESL collections, increase computer access and raise the visibility of library services for immigrant populations.

The newest American Dream libraries join a cohort of 100 previously funded programs in Dollar General communities. These American Dream libraries built easily replicable programs, developed coalition-building strategies and provided annotated lists of proven resources for libraries across the country serving adult English language learners.

During our visit, Michelle, Zina, and I saw first hand the amazing things that STDL is doing for English language learners in their communities. Here's a video outlining our visit, as well as an overview of all the ELL services STDL provides, with literacy coordinator Pat Barch.

The American Dream Starts @ your library(r) is made possible through generous funding from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. 

Books_DG_Litfinal

17May/10Off

C’mon, let’s talk!

Submitted by Cindy Welsh, Outreach Coordinator
High Plains Library District, Greeley, Colorado

“What I really want is for you to talk with each other” wrote Dale Lipschultz in her recent OLOS Columns posting.   A directive for those of us participating in the American Dream Starts @ your library project, Dale’s comment bears repeating—it is indeed important for us to be talking to each other.  Why?  I’ll explain that in a bit, but let me do an introduction first so that you’ll understand why Dale’s wish makes sense to me.   

 My name is Cindy and I’m the Outreach Librarian for the High Plains Library District  (HPLD) based in Greeley, Colorado.  Due to the need for adult literacy resources among our service population (particularly English language acquisition materials), we applied for and received an American Dream Starts @ your library grant in 2008.  HPLD used the funding to donate $300.00 worth of GED, ELA and citizenship materials to each of the eleven Head Start centers in our service area, which is just less than 4000 square miles.   Head Start, in addition to housing the new literacy collections placed in specially-marked plastic tubs (purchased at Dollar General), was to provide a designated computer in every center for adult learners to use while their children attended classes.  The remaining funds were to be used to host a series of open houses at library facilities and/or Head Start centers to promote usage of the literacy tubs, demonstrate online library resources, and issue library cards to Head Start families and staff.   

For the most part, things went as planned.  We selected, purchased and distributed the physical materials to the centers and were able to train Head Start staff on the online resources at a staff training day.  Presentations at parent nights elicited oohs and ahhs from parents and an eagerness to use the literacy tubs.   All the same, every project—no matter how well planned—runs into complications and ours was no exception.  Our biggest obstacle involved a new filter on Head Start’s computer network (at that time operated by the county) that prevented access to the library’s entire website.  Were there other hindrances?  Yes.  Were they insurmountable?  By all means, no.  It helped that I was able to glean ideas from other American Dream librarians for work-arounds.

So, why do we need to be communicating with one another via this blog, e-mails, at conferences or something old-fashioned like the telephone?  

Creativity. True, we American Dream librarians are a creative bunch (need I site our grant proposals as examples?), but sometimes we need to be even more creative and reading about someone else’s efforts might give us an “AHA moment!”

Assistance. As we all know (too well?), these are hard times in library world. We all have to work smarter with reduced resources—even when those are supplemented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation.  Why waste time re-inventing the wheel when another American Dream library may have a solution for you? Yet another reason to make good use of all the resources found in the American Dream Toolkit as well as this blog.

Sustenance.  Just as every caregiver needs some respite, every librarian needs a support system--particularly when you are providing pathbreaking services for your community. We’ll have your back when someone questions why you are doing this important work.  

Time.  Do any of us have too much of it?  It’s the old “a stitch in time saves nine” thing; taking a few minutes to learn about/from someone else’s experience may save you more than you can imagine. 

C(reativity), A(ssistance), S(ustenance), T(ime) = CAST.  We need to talk to because we are the cast in this production.  Dollar General Literacy Foundation is our producer.  Dale, Vivian, John and the rest of the ALA crew are our directors.  Our patrons are our audience and we are the cast.  If we are to wow our audience (and we know they need us to do just that), please our producer, heed our directors and support one another we have to converse.   I’ve just finished my “monologue,” who’s up next?

12May/10Off

The value of visiting.

Posted by Dale Lipschultz, OLOS Literacy Officer

Sometimes when I’m in the middle of a large, complex project I temporarily loose sight of what’s really important.  For the last few months, I’ve been buried in American Dream  paperwork – proposals, budgets, contracts, and endless strings of emails.  I know the importance of this kind of paperwork. I also know that it’s what I have to do before I get to do what I love. I love visiting libraries, talking with directors, library staff, and community partners. I love seeing what’s happening at your library.  Last week’s ‘road trip’ to the Wauconda (IL) Area Library confirmed the importance of these face-to-face meetings.

When we were planning this phase of the American Dream project I knew that I wanted to build in time for collaboration and conversation. Of course, I want to see libraries, but that’s only a small part of it. What I really want is for you to talk with each other.

This time around, establishing a virtual community was (relatively) easy – thanks to ALA Connect, Facebook, and John Amundsen. Virtual communities lay the groundwork, but it’s conversations that develop organically and take unexpected turns that really move our work forward.

Whenever possible, I want to bring the American Dream libraries together. We have clusters of libraries – four in South Carolina and New Mexico, five in Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania, seven in North Carolina and New Jersey, and 11 in Illinois. We will reach out to the local ALA chapters.  We’ll certainly will meet at ALA’s Annual Conference and Midwinter meetings.

Right now, we’re looking at calendars and studying local maps. This Thursday we’re traveling to Tulsa, Oklahoma and Bentonville, Arkansas. I’ll keep you posted.