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Best Practices

E.S.L. Center

[The Jones Library, USA]

The ESL Center matches volunteer tutors to adult immigrants for one-to-one instruction in English language and literacy. We serve immigrants who have come to live and work in the area and to make the Pioneer Valley their home. The Center's award winning tutoring program helps immigrants to become full participants in our community by achieving linguistic self-reliance and familiarity with American culture and institutions. The Center Coordinator is a nationally recognized ESL/citizenship author, trainer and curriculum developer.

What makes this program different from other adult education programs?

Setting is ideal: the library is a community center that serves as the cultural and educational center of the community
Overhead costs are low (about 320 hours of volunteer instructional time donated per week)
Scheduling is flexible (students can get help no matter which work shift(s) or childcare arrangements)
Instruction can be tailored to individual needs

What students learn at the ESL Center
The program helps immigrants to meet their individual goals, which differ greatly from student to student. Some of the goals students are currently working toward include:

  • Improving job communication skills
  • Getting a drivers license 
  • Becoming a US citizen 
  • Communicating effectively with their children's teachers and health care providers 
  • Getting a "safe serve" or similar workplace credential for a promotion 
  • Communicating better with customers, supervisors and co-workers 
  • Enrolling in community college next year 
  • Getting a high enough TOEFL score to enter the university

There are currently 80 tutors matched with students at the ESL Center. Our volunteers represent a wide range of Amherst residents. About 20% are college students, and another 10% are retired professionals. The rest are ordinary people who volunteer outside of their regular work hours.
Tutors receive a ten-hour training workshop, a handbook and on-going support from the ESL Center coordinator. Some choose to work with more than one student, and many have been volunteering for years. All are asked to make a 9-month commitment to the program.

The ESL Center offers information/application packets and study materials to immigrants who are ready to apply for citizenship. Individuals are offered tutors, occasional classes, application assistance and practice interviews. We estimate that 20 immigrants each year would not be able to naturalize without the extra help we offer. Our success rate with citizenship students is 100%.
What would happen if the service was no longer available? Immigrants would face a bewildering set of barriers to instruction, such as:

  • Lack of classroom slots in state-funded adult education programs
  • Lack of transportation (when out-of-town classes are the only option) 
  • Inability to change work schedules or childcare arrangements in order to attend scheduled classes 
  • Required minimum competency tests, for access to community college ESL courses 
  • No available instruction for specific needs/goals 
  • Long waiting lists for services

The Center
The ESL Center is located on the lower level of the Jones Library, the Town Library in Amherst, Massachusetts. Three conference rooms are used by tutors and students, one of which includes a computer with English learning software and Internet access. A specialized collection of 1,782 books, tapes, videos, and other instructional materials supports the learning process. These public facilities are open seven days a week from September through May and six days a week through the summer months.


Coordinator: Lynne Weintraub

Town Library in Amherst
8 Montague Road
Amherst 01002
Massachusetts, USA


With the support of the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union.
support of the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Unionsupport of the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union
© 2009 Project partners of the Libraries for All - ESME project

Immigrant InstituteMulticultural Center Pragueokay. zusammen lebenSAT 3Public Library of Frankfurt am Main