With more than 60 branch locations and over 3 million media available in 30 different languages, the Brooklyn Public Library is the fifth largest library system in the US. Earlier this year, the library was awarded a National Medal by the Institute for Museum and Library Services and honored in particular for their social work. The Outreach Services department organizes creative workshops for the elderly that can also be experienced online from home, oral history projects for veterans, media delivery services and citizenship classes. The latter are offered for free at 5 different locations thanks to a 2-year grant from the Department of Homeland Security. For 11 weeks, those seeking citizenship are prepared for the citizenship test with training not only in English, but also in the topics covered by the test and tips for the interview itself. Participation in the course requires registration in advance and is open to green card holders only.
Brooklyn Public Library's Central Library
Aside from the citizenship classes, another service is offered: so-called Citizenship Prep Conversation Groups are held at 11 branch locations. This program was initiated in 2013 to respond to a demand for citizenship preparation without pre-registration and for those whose English skills are not as advanced. Even though they receive no financial support, these prep courses are also free of charge because they are largely taught by volunteers. The Brooklyn Public Library relies on the support of roughly 2,000 volunteers. They assist on projects as varied as help with job applications or homework, computer coaching or reading to children. The majority are engaged in the literacy and English language courses offered for “New Americans”. Conversation groups are offered at 32 branch locations, each generally running 1.5-2 hours in the afternoon. Much like in Queens, Brooklyn places a great emphasis on having qualified staff. Potential volunteer must fill out a lengthy application, interview with the volunteer department, and attend mandatory training sessions.
New Americans Corner
But clearly no training can prepare volunteers for all questions that might be asked in the Prep courses. For that, there are a number of “New Americans Corners” spread throughout Brooklyn’s Central Library that offer informational material to which new arrivals can be referred. The government’s Welcome to the United States – A Guide to New Immigrants strikes me as a very useful tool for volunteers. By the way, on page 2 under the heading Where to Get Help, public libraries are listed…