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#LibrariesTransform // When Libraries & Democracy Collide: Two Librarians & A Microphone Podcast

Our democratic process has always been preserved by the existence of public libraries. By offering free and open access to information, libraries are for everyone, everywhere. 

Join us as we discuss how libraries successfully promote democracy. Libraries are not only helping community members vote, but also assisting patrons to achieve the life-changing goal of citizenship, bringing legislative knowledge to light, and lending a helping hand to refugees in their communities. Ultimately, libraries are the great equalizer, there to serve everyone, helping them access the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to be informed members of our democracy.


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In order of appearance: In July 2018, Los Angeles Central Library celebrated 55 children from 20 different countries who received certificates of citizenship (source)A Somali mother holding Baro Af-Soomaali, a Somali language children's board book made possible by the Seattle Public Library (source), IMLS funded Project Welcome helps libraries provide programs and services for immigrants in their communities (source). 


Jim Heuer [00:00:15] Hey everybody, it's Jim Heuer, Director of Sales for Ingram Library Services. We are here with Episode Three in Season Five of our podcast series, this one we are borrowing from our theme from The Urban Libraries Council of Libraries Leading Forward. Once again I have with me my pals from the library side. Tricia, want to say hi to everyone?

Tricia Bengel [00:00:39] Hey everybody!

Jim Heuer [00:00:40] Donna, how about you, say hey.

Donna George [00:00:42] Hey.

Jim Heuer [00:00:43] Alrighty, so far we have had a couple of what we think are lively discussions. In the first episode of this season, we discussed an article that suggested that perhaps Amazon would do a better job serving the role of a library in towns. I think we've all come to our conclusions about that. Episode Two we talked about how libraries lead in times of crisis, whether that be kind of natural born or civil unrest, or that type of thing. In this episode we're going to talk about how libraries promote democracy. Also, interesting in light of some of the things going on out in the world, but you know libraries are on, are helping do things like register folks to vote. Help people become citizens, hold forums for candidates to talk about their ideas, have bulletin boards where you can go and actually read the legislation before you get into the polling place and have to decide yes or no or whatever. Those are all roles of the library. Donna, I know that you've been looking at how libraries work with refugees and why don't you talk a little bit about what you found and some of the things that are going on out in the library world regarding refugees.

Donna George [00:02:01] I'll start at slightly a higher level, just to emphasize a lot of what we've been talking about in this season, about how libraries are really a great equalizer. In researching for this season of the podcast, we discovered some interesting information about kind of the origin of public libraries. It was Carnegie himself, one of the richest dudes ever, who put the "public" in public library after he had a personal experience of not being able to afford the library options that he had at the time. That's kind of an interesting background of how we came to the notion of public libraries. What we've seen is under the mission of serving all people equally, libraries have really stepped up to the plate when it comes to refugees under the topic of democracy. The ALA has gotten involved and there are now a couple of organizations that really help librarians in the way of refugees. One is called Libraries Serve Refugees, and that organization brings together a lot of resources that libraries can use to work with the refugee population. One of the interesting components there is that they have culturally responsive approaches. Part of that material has really been thought through about how best to interact with different populations and what's appropriate and what's not to have some meaningful communication with those folks. The other is Project Welcome. This is an IMLS funded project and it has some similar resources, but also includes an action guide that helps librarians learn, collaborate,

Donna George [00:03:35] connect and support this audience. Libraries are really stepping up to help refugees in both a local kind of centralized way and also in aggregate with organizations like these.

Jim Heuer [00:03:47] Tricia, I know that that kind of plays into what's going on with LA Public, Los Angeles Public Library, their work with immigrants is pretty well known throughout the country, but why don't you talk about some of the really innovative stuff that they're doing?

Tricia Bengel [00:04:02] If you've been around for several years watching sort of trends in public libraries, you probably have not missed what Los Angeles Public Library is doing and inspiring other libraries to do around the country. What they're doing is at LA, they have a new American's initiative where in six of their libraries, they actually have trained immigration specialists and department of justified, certified library and contract staff to help people in 19 languages be able to fill out their naturalization application, know their rights, be able to get financial coaching, tenant legal services, worker rights information, because there are more than 700,000 residents in Los Angeles who are eligible to naturalize, but are not. There is really no place that offers free services to help people learn the process, access the materials, have the computers to fill out the applications, besides Los Angeles Public Library, in many cases. Like I said, they've been doing this for several years now, the program keeps growing and growing. 17,000 people have started their journey to citizenship through the public library at Los Angeles and I've been seeing other libraries doing this, as well. Dallas Public Library is having these mega citizenship workshops, I noticed that Tampa Hillsborough, Florida is doing it. Skokie Public Library is having naturalization ceremonies at their library now, and so it's really becoming known throughout the communities that this a real need. We want people to have a path to citizenship and so the library is offering in many places,

Tricia Bengel [00:06:11] the only path to free resources to be able to help on that path. It really makes me proud as a librarian to be able to talk and be part of this movement.

Jim Heuer [00:06:25] From another perspective, we get asked for material in so many different languages, right? Every community that we go to has pockets of, you know, languages. Some of them have to, I admit that I might have to go to Google at one time to figure out what Tamil was, I didn't know. But now I do, I believe it's a language spoken in southern India. There's lots of this desire to bring in books that will make these folks comfortable, being able to read... I'll certainly… talk about our friends up in Seattle who you know, attacked a problem with trying to get material for the large Somali population with a book that they created, it's called Baro Af-Soomaali. It's in-stock in all of our warehouses. I also learned that book two, a counting book, is well on its way. So, look for that a little bit later. At this idea of helping folks assimilate, feel comfortable…

Tricia Bengel [00:07:25] …learning about the democratic process, learning you know, then afterwards, who they should vote for, how they should vote, how to register to vote, I mean, so it's everything from basic citizenship to becoming an informed citizen after the fact. Again, we serve all.

Jim Heuer [00:07:45] We do, we try to. I know Donna, one of the things that you do here, you've been working with one of our eBook platforms that also is a big promoter of foreign language material, foreign language books and magazines and newspapers, you know there is a need out in the library world for that stuff.

Donna George [00:08:03] Yes, yeah, we partner with a company called ODILO and they bring eBooks and eAudiobooks, as well as electronic newspapers and magazines. They are based out of Spain, so they have a lot of Spanish content, but they also have a ton of other languages, so we're hoping that that partnership will really help us fill this niche that more and more libraries are trying to fill in order to match the needs of their population.

Jim Heuer [00:08:28] As we talked about in a couple earlier episodes, it's incumbent for the libraries, librarians, to look around their community and react to the needs of the patrons they're serving.

Tricia Bengel [00:08:40] Just this morning, I was talking to a library and I, we were lamenting and also being really proud of the fact that, when you go into a chain, you go into Walmart. Walmart pretty much looks and feels the same way, it doesn't matter if you're in New York City, Los Angeles, or the middle of Kansas. Walmart's going to be Walmart, it's going to be Walmart. That's not the case with libraries. We serve our communities in the way our communities need and that is something that you're not going to get with a chain like Amazon is a bookstore. You're going to get a library who serves the need of their community in the way their community needs.

Donna George [00:09:25] I was just going to mention Amazon! As a harken back to our first episode, I would be willing to bet that an Amazon local bookstore would look the same, as well.

Tricia Bengel [00:09:36] Absolutely.

Jim Heuer [00:09:37] Yup. Quote here from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "Libraries are essential to the functioning of a democratic society. Libraries are the great symbols of the freedom of the mind." Yeah, I go into libraries for a living, I do that absolutely, he got it. Librarians take that message to heart and that's what they do, you know, that's their mission. Alright, so I think we're going to call this the end of Episode Three, right in our Libraries Leading Forward segment. Stay tuned for the next episode. We're going to talk about some more of the stuff going on out in the library world of Librarians Leading Forward. You know we're also gearing up for the ULC Annual Forum in Baltimore and you know, hopefully we'll see some of you folks there and talk to some librarians at that event, as well. But before I go, I'll give our librarian pals a chance to say goodbye to you so, Tricia, do you want to say, "See ya?"

Tricia Bengel [00:10:42] Bye everybody.

Jim Heuer [00:10:43] Donna?

Donna George [00:10:44] See you next time.

Jim Heuer [00:10:45] Alrighty and we will talk to you later. Thanks everybody, bye bye. Two Librarians and A Microphone is brought to you by Ingram Library Services, it is a division of Ingram Content Group. Our producer director is Rachel Cope, sound engineering by Craig Simpson, special assistance by Essence Brisco and Elizabeth Wilcox, the research done by our librarians Tricia Bengle and Donna George. I'm Jim Heuer, thanks most of all to you for listening. Please follow us on Instagram @thelibrarylife. Tag us in your #thelibrarylife moments, because we've got some cool stuff going on, on that social media platform. We're going to be giving away some exclusive books, ARCs, perhaps a signed copy. In order to make sure that you're staying tuned to this podcast, we'd love for you to go to our landing page But most importantly, the best way you can show your support for us, we'd love some reviews on Apple iTunes. If you could go in there, leave us a positive review, that would really help. Tell us what you'd like to hear that might help us as we're thinking about some of the content we're trying to bring you. But you know, it's the best way you can support what we're doing. We're trying to bring you interesting, fun, compelling, thought-provoking content. We might see some of you at ULC in Baltimore and if so, we look forward to that and if not, we will see you in your libraries. Thanks everybody.