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Public Library Services for Immigrants

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Restatement of the Problem and Research Questions

The United States of America is a country where every year lots of people migrate from all over the world for better employment, to meet up with family and overall to have a better life. In order to settle in a new country and new environment, immigrants need various information such as information for housing, education, health benefits, legal information, etc. They also need information to build a new social network in a new country. Public libraries are major source of information and support for immigrants. In order to provide information requested by immigrants it is crucial for libraries to create strategies to attract immigrants and provide them with equal access to all common tools, particularly equal information, education and responsive support systems.

However, due to the difference in language, culture, accessibility immigrants often are deprived of having these services. Many immigrants come from countries without any library tradition who don’t know about the existence of library services or hesitate to come to the librarian desk and ask for help. That is why it is important for librarians to understand immigrant’s information need and find ways to make them aware of what public libraries have to offer to help them. On the other hand, as our communities are getting more diverse, librarians have to be observant and aware of how the community is changing around them as they serve everyone who lives, visits or works in their community. Public libraries should always update their collection and offer new services for everchanging diverse immigrant community.

By investigating the library use of immigrants who moved to United States from different countries this research paper aims to discover which aspects of the library and its services are particularly appreciated by immigrants; and to identify possible areas of improvement to reduce information poverty and help new immigrants in settlement process. The researcher will try to find out the answer of following questions:

  • RQ1: How do immigrants perceive library services offered to them? and,
  • RQ2: What other services do they believe would benefit new immigrants in their settlement process?

Definition of terms

The term settlement describes the process by which immigrants and other new-comers adapt to life in their new country (Linden et al, 2014, p. 66). Even though the word immigrant is going to be used a lot in this research paper, there is a range of other words which will appear in late discussions. They are either similar in meaning with immigrant or are associated with immigrants. The US Census Bureau uses the term foreign-born to refer to anyone who is not a US citizen at birth. This includes naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, temporary migrants (such as foreign students), humanitarian migrants (such as refugees), and undocumented migrants (Grieco et al., 2012). According to Walters and Trevelyan (2011), Newcomer or newly arrived and foreign-born defined as those who came to live in the USA about five years ago or less than five years ago.

Scope of the study

The scope or focus of this study is to investigate the awareness, perception and demand of public library services by people who moved to USA from other countries for better life. This study will provide information on

  • what public libraries specifically, Queens Public Library are doing in response to the challenges of linguistic and cultural diversity and
  • identify library services and collections already in exist to help immigrants as well as those in need of improvement.

Research Methodology: Survey Questionnaire

Quantitative analysis will be used in this study to understand immigrants needs and perception of public library services. The researcher has decided to use Survey Questionnaire instrument to address RQ1 and RQ2. A questionnaire is an instrument consisting of a series of questions for the purpose of gathering information from respondents. Survey questions for this research project are structured to understand

  • the ‘demographics’ of the immigrant population taking advantage of the public library service;
  • immigrants library use behavior;
  • how libraries are helping immigrants in their settlement process with services and by bridging the gap between the immigrants and the community;
  • and immigrant’s demands and ways to fulfill them.

The researcher has chosen this research method because, a standard survey questionnaire provides quantifiable answers for a research topic. Additionally, through survey questionnaire research method, a large number of people can be reached easily, and it is free of cost.

Research Instrument:

The researcher has developed a Survey Questionnaire (Appendix A) which is consist of 15 open-ended and closed questions for immigrants. The following chart illustrates the relationship between the research questions, topic area and survey questionnaire.

Survey Topic and Research Question

Research Instrument

Demographic information of the respondents

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Survey Question 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,6

RQ1: How do immigrants perceive the library services offered to them?

Survey Question 8, 9,10,11,12

RQ2: What other services do they believe would benefit new immigrants in their settlement process?

Survey Question 7,8, 13, 14, 15

Sample selection

The researcher has decided to conduct the immigrant needs assessment through meeting immigrants who visit public library and take the advantage of public library such as English as a Second Language (ESOL) class students of Queens Public Library. The most significant program public libraries have provided for immigrants is the English Literacy program. Queens Public Library ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program serve more than 3,000 students annually who receive free, formal classroom instruction to learn English. The researcher chose ESL class students as the population for this study because, they are immigrants, born overseas, migrated to and leaving in United States. Even though there are differences between their ethnic and cultural experiences, their socio-economic backgrounds are assumed to be broadly similar, as well as their individual willingness to embrace a new country and culture.

Survey Procedure

The survey will take place in the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) class of Queens Public Library Broadway branch. The library offers ESOL class every Saturday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm for twenty immigrant students. With the help of the instructor, the researcher is planning to conduct the survey on November 9th. The printed survey questionnaire will be distributed directly to the ESL class students after a brief introduction of the researcher and the purpose of the research. Respondents will be invited to sit with the same cultural or language group before distributing the survey questionnaire. This will allow the students to feel comfortable and confident in their familiar group environment, receive peer language assistant if necessary and will encourage them to answer the questions freely.

Data processing and analysis

Data from the survey questionnaires will be manually entered into the SurveyMonkey data file. Data will be then manipulated for descriptive statistics.

Limitation Of the Study

One limitation of the research method (survey questionnaire) is that the respondents can be discouraged to answer the written questions or can misunderstand the questions because of their poor language skills.

Reference

  1. Grieco, E.M., Acosta, Y.D., de la Cruz, G.P., Gambino, C., Gryn, T., Larsen, L.J., Trevelyan, E.N. and Walters, N.P. (2012), The Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 2010, US Census Bureau, American Community Survey Report. Retrieved from: https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/2012/acs/acs-19.pdf
  2. Linden, K. V. D., Bartlett, J., & Beheshti, J. (2014). New Immigrants’ Perceptions and Awareness of Public Library Service. Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science, 38(2), 65–79.
  3. Walters, N.P. and Trevelyan, E.N. (2011), The newly arrived foreign-born population of the United States 2010, US Census Bureau, American Community Survey Report. Retrieved from: https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/2011/acs/acsbr10-16.pdf

Appendix A: Survey Questionnaire

Thank you for taking a moment to fill out this questionnaire!

It is 15 questions long and should take between 5-10 minutes to complete.

  • What is your gender?
    • Male
    • Female
    • Other __________________
  • What is your age?
    • 25 and Under
    • 26 – 40
    • 41 – 55
    • 56 or older.
  • What is the highest level of your education?
    • High School
    • College
    • Bachelor’s Degree
    • Master’s Degree
    • Other ____________________
  • What is your native country?
  • _______________________________________________________
  • What is your native language? _________________________________________________
  • How long have you lived in the USA? ____________________________________________________
  • How did you hear about the library?
    • Family or friends
    • Newspaper
    • Radio / Television
    • Other. Please specify: ______________________
  • What kind of books you check out or want to check out from your library?
    • ESL books.
    • Items in English.
    • Items in my language.
    • Books to help job search.
    • Other. Please specify: ______________________
  • How much do you agree with the following statement?
    • Attending English as Second Language (ESL) class has improved my language skill:
    • Somewhat agree
    • Strongly agree.
    • Neither agree nor disagree
    • Somewhat disagree
    • Strongly disagree
  • By attending this ESL class, you have also learned about:
    • Job search Information
    • Computer class
    • Citizenship class
    • Other. Please specify: ______________________
  • How much do you agree with the following statement?
    • Attending the ESL class, I have learned more about American culture and society:
    • Somewhat agree
    • Strongly agree.
    • Neither agree nor disagree
    • Somewhat disagree
    • Strongly disagree
  • How much do you agree with the following statement?
    • By coming to ESL class, I was able to socialize and make new friends:
    • Somewhat agree
    • Strongly agree.
    • Neither agree nor disagree
    • Somewhat disagree
    • Strongly disagree
  • Would you like to hear more about what the library offers?
    • Yes
    • No
  • How do you prefer to hear about other library services?
    • Text
    • E-mail
    • Flyers in your language.
    • Newspaper/ Radio/ Television
    • Social media (Facebook, Instagram)
  • What other things you would like to suggest the library to help you or your family to have a better life in this country? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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Public Library Services for Immigrants. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/public-library-services-for-immigrants/
“Public Library Services for Immigrants.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/public-library-services-for-immigrants/
Public Library Services for Immigrants. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/public-library-services-for-immigrants/> [Accessed 5 Oct. 2022].
Public Library Services for Immigrants [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2022 Oct 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/public-library-services-for-immigrants/
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