BEYOND THE BOOKS:
Queens Library Offers Programs
For Every Type Of New Immigrant
Customers try out the International Resource Center at the Flushing branch.
By Ellen Thompson
Over the years, immigrants across the borough have known Queens Library as the No. 1 destination for information and resources on a complex and unfamiliar city. From English for Speakers of Other Languages classes to a simple explanation of subway and bus lines, the library’s staff watch smiling immigrants leave their building everyday.
“Our programs have been a tremendous help to immigrants,” Queens Library spokeswoman Joanne King said.”Many have written us even before they get into the country telling us that friends or family have told them that the first place they need to go is here to take our courses.”
The library offers an environment where immigrants and their children can utilize practical discussion skills without the rigid atmosphere of a classroom. “They are getting the vocabulary they would need to get a drivers license, take a subway and would use to ask questions on a doctor visit,” King said. “It is practical and nobody else offers classes like these.”
To keep immigrants up to date on what’s going in their home countries, the library offers Internet training courses and also stocks its shelves with collections of books in the native languages – even the best sellers.
“We enable immigrants to continue with their home culture that they may have left behind and explore what Queens has to offer,” she said.
Aware of the more than 160 nationalities all working toward common goals outside its doors, the library developed the New Americans program in 1977 to provide popular reading, cultural arts and coping skills programs in the major immigrant languages in Queens.
Located within the Central Library building in Jamaica, the New Americans program includes a collection of books, periodicals, CDs, CD-ROMs and videos in various languages, and the romances, computer books, cookbooks, biographies, best-sellers, martial arts novels, parenting books are among some of the most checked out.
The program also organizes smaller programs that assist new immigrants in adapting to life in America and that celebrate the culture of the diverse ethnic groups in Queens. The program’s resource guide will direct visitors toward various multicultural Web sites, English classes, citizenship classes, immigrant-serving agencies, demographics, human and social services and more, King said.
Services from battered women’s shelters to drug abuse programs to youth outreach can be found by searching according to language and neighborhood at all Queens Library locations or online at www.queenslibrary.org/communitydb/main.asp
There is assistance available at the Central Library’s Job Information Center.
As one of the most raved about programs at Queens Library, the Adult Learner program serves new immigrants in the most practical way through every day conversation practices – and for free, to boot.
To meet the needs and interests of Queens’ diverse and changing Adult Basic Education, Family Literacy, and ESOL population, the Adult Learner program provides quality services, resources and lifelong learning opportunities through books and a variety of other formats.
One of the most important components of the program is the English for Speaker of Other Languages (ESOL) classes. Each year at 28 locations throughout the Queens Library System about 100 classes are offered and there is rarely an empty seat, King said. Trained and experienced teachers conduct the classes and the ESOL Program staff provides teacher training and support, curricula, and materials.
King said getting acquainted with the English language is even more beneficial when the entire family takes part, and that’s exactly what new immigrant families across Queens have been doing. The library’s Family Literacy Program offers classes for families with pre-school and elementary school children as well as a six-week family reading program at the Adult Learning Centers.
There are six Adult Learning Centers throughout Queens for self-study and independent learning, with full-time professional staff and volunteer who tutor literacy groups, facilitate ESOL conversation groups, and mentor individual students. Centers also offer learning materials, video groups, writing groups, technology-assisted instruction, Adult Basic Education classes (Pre-GED) as well as ongoing volunteer training and support.
To take your first free English class, English conversation groups, or basic literacy classes call one of the six locations nearest you: Central Library in Jamaica (718) 480-4222; Elmhurst (718) 699-3302; Flushing (718) 661-1241; Peninsula in Rockaway Beach (718) 945-7058; Rochdale in Jamaica (718) 723-7662; and Steinway in Long Island City (718) 932-3239
When it comes time for many new immigrants to set out on the job search, it is not as simple as flipping through the average classifieds section. To avoid this obstacle the library trained librarians in finding employment, and offer free guidance in preparing resumes and identifying job training.
The Job Information centers in Jamaica and Flushing maintain a collection of specialized career and education resources including books, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, forms and catalogs that can be utilized with help from librarians. Some of the items are to be used only in the library, while others are available for borrowing, King said.
In addition, Queens Library’s Social Sciences Division, located at the Central Library, offers customers a number of resources related to job information, including test preparation and civil service exams, curriculum guides for tests, standardized tests in education, citizenship, immigration guides, and college directories. To keep new immigrants up to date on job openings librarians also select popular Web sites that are of interest to the general public each month.
For more information on the Job Information Centers call (718) 990-0746
Because Queens Library prides itself on keeping members up to date with what’s going on in the world of technology, it opened a cyber center at the Central Library to offer workshops (in English and Spanish) in basic computer skills.
The classes range from introduction to computers covering how to use a standard model PC with a generic Windows operating system, to introduction to Excel, introduction to Word, introduction to e-mail, introduction to the Internet, jobs online and computers for seniors. For a current schedule of classes and to register call (718) 661-1229
Serving a population of more than 2 million in the most ethnically diverse county in the United States, Queens Library reaches out to every immigrant population it can ensuring they keep a piece of home with them whether a book or movie and at the same time that they take advantage of everything a new country has to offer.
For more information about library programs, services, locations, events and news, visit the Queens Library web site at www.queenslibrary.org or call (718) 990-0700.