New Immigrants Centers[Austin Public Library (APL) , USA]
Austin Public Library created the New Immigrants Project in 2000 as a result of recommendations made in 1998 by the Austin Task Force on Immigration Issues. The Task Force was charged by the Austin City Council to investigate the effects of then recent changes to immigration laws on residents of Austin. Austin Public Library was allocated $17,000 by the City in FY2000 to improve library services to immigrants. A committee of APL staff from three libraries in neighborhoods with large immigrant populations generated the idea of English and citizenship study centers. That year, New Immigrants Project study centers were established at three APL locations. Each subsequent fiscal year, the centers were allocated $1,000 each from the City budget to improve and expand the center collections. In 2004, two study centers were added,the Ruiz Branch and the St. John Center and the name was changed to New Immigrants Centers to better reflect the nature of the service. A staff committee continues to oversee and improve the New Immigrants Centers.
New Immigrants Center Customers
Any adult immigrant, regardless of type of immigration status, is welcome to use APL’s New Immigrants Centers. The majority of users come from Latin American countries, such as Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala, but there are also a large number of users from Vietnam and China as well. Immigration statistics from the 2000 U.S. Census:
Between 1999 & 2000, the number of Foreign Born residents in Travis County increased by 172%
31.1% of Austin residents speak a language other than English at home, and 13.9% speak English less than “very well”
Services of New Immigrants Centers
Each center has materials and equipment available for use on a first come, first serve basis for the study of English and United States citizenship, including: VHS video player, Audio player and Internet access.
Books, audios, and videos in English and other languages for center use and circulation, for the study of English and U.S. culture, and access to immigration information brochures from local nonprofit agencies that assist immigrants.
Each center hosts weekly sessions of Talk Time during the spring and fall semesters. Talk Time is an English conversation practice program for non-native English speaking adults. It provides a safe and relaxed environment in the library for these individuals to practice English-speaking skills, with the help of volunteer facilitators.
Three New Immigrants Center libraries partner with Austin-area providers of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to provide ESL classes at their locations. St. John partners with the Austin Independent School District, while Little Walnut Creek and Cepeda partner with Austin Community College.
Free Public Computer Classes
Three New Immigrants Center libraries provide free computer classes to the public. Classes are offered in English and Spanish, and are taught by a combination of volunteers and staff.
Books, videos, DVDs, CDs, and periodicals in approximately 40 languages are available throughout the Austin Public Library system. Languages include Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. All APL locations provide materials in Spanish.