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ALA releases recommendations for improved public library services to new Americans

CHICAGO — As immigration rises to the forefront of public discourse, public libraries continue to be a trusted resource for new Americans seeking to gain familiarity and skills in a new land. To help libraries better serve these populations, the American Library Association (ALA) has released a white paper exploring how U.S. public libraries can provide the services new Americans need to thrive.

The report, “Library Programs and New Americans: A White Paper,” is the result of a six-month research project conducted by ALA’s Public Programs Office and a team of public library workers and partner organizations.

Through the New Americans Library Project, ALA worked with social science think tank New Knowledge Organization Ltd. to study offerings for new Americans, identify gaps in service, and develop a set of recommendations. The research team conducted site visits in public libraries in a variety of community types and sizes across the United States. They held focus groups with library and partner organization staff and new American library patrons to learn more about library use patterns and how libraries could better meet the needs of their constituents.

 “ALA and its divisions have developed a variety of support materials to assist libraries in reaching their immigrant patrons, including webinars and resources for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers,” said Melanie Welch, project director in ALA’s Public Programs Office. “However, ALA has not yet undertaken a comprehensive approach toward developing a set of best practices, nor have we endeavored to start a national conversation about library services to new Americans, until now. We hope this white paper feeds the discussion and advances the public library field’s work to support the needs of immigrants, refugees and displaced persons in their local communities.”

“Library Programs and New Americans: A White Paper” offers nine recommendations for public library staff, including:

  1. Assess community needs
  2. Foster partnerships with community organizations
  3. Offer professional development opportunities for staff and volunteers
  4. Include new Americans in decision-making and implementation
  5. Use terms that resonate with your specific community
  6. Develop multilingual resources
  7. Foster connections between new Americans and existing residents
  8. Create more intergenerational programming
  9. Build sustainable services

Download the white paper at

Over 43 million immigrants live in the United States, making up about 13 percent of the nation’s population. More than 55 percent of new Americans use their public library at least once a week, according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), to access English language learning classes, citizenship and civic educational programs, and a vital support network.

The New Americans Library Project was funded by a grant from The JPB Foundation.

About the ALA Public Programs Office

The American Library Association Public Programs Office empowers libraries to create vibrant hubs of learning, conversation and connection in communities of all types.

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit

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