Live from the Urban Libraries Council Annual Forum, we’re interviewing Susan Broman from the Los Angeles Public Library about innovative additions to the area of Civic & Community Engagement through the New Americans Initiative.
As a community resource for all members of society, libraries play an integral part in building the thriving and diverse country we have now. To help new community members successfully become integrated into American society, LA Public has developed the New Americans Initiative. By stationing six centers across library branches in order to expand access to information, services, and resources among immigrant community members, library employees working in conjunction with community-based organizations, help guide individuals through citizenship, community integration, and legal service processes. By connecting them to assistance they would ordinarily have difficulty obtaining, LA Public is helping the newest members of their community build a more secure future for themselves and their families.
Jim Heuer [00:00:16] Hi, everybody. This is Jim Heuer, your host of the podcast, Two Librarians and A Microphone. I'm here with librarian number two, Donna George.
Donna George [00:00:24] Hi, you all.
Jim Heuer [00:00:25] All righty. So, we're excited to come to you live, from the Urban Library Council Annual in Baltimore, Maryland. Ingram Library Services is a proud sponsor of the Innovation Award that the ULC bestows upon its members. Today, we have a librarian from Los Angeles Public Library, who has been awarded one of the Top Innovators this year. So, we would like to welcome Susan Broman. Susan, welcome.
Susan Broman [00:00:49] Thank you very much.
Jim Heuer [00:00:50] All righty. So, Susan, as I just mentioned, LA public has been awarded by the ULC for the Top Innovator in the Civic and Community Engagement Category. Could you tell us a little bit about your New Americans Initiative edition?
Susan Broman [00:01:04] Sure. The New Americans Initiative came out of work that we have done in citizenship for many, many years. The LA Public Library has done work with helping people get citizenship. We had citizenship corners. We found that as we were doing that work that we were serving people in a much broader capacity. With things like a driver’s license, for people who are undocumented or information about tenant law, for example. The New Americans Initiative was our opportunity to expand those services beyond citizenship to more immigrant integration, and really addressing the very diverse communities of immigrants in LA.
Donna George [00:01:51] That's fantastic, Susan. As I was reading through your information here, I noticed that you are D.O.J. certified. Kudos for that. I can only imagine what a process that was. I'm also really thrilled, the goal of any real library is to survey the whole community and determine the needs and I can certainly see where LA Public would have needs like this. What was the response of your community when you started this initiative?
Susan Broman [00:02:17] The response of our community has always been pretty positive towards this initiative. The mayor of LA, Eric Garcetti, has been extremely supportive as of how the entire city…we have six New American centers where we provide services, not just from our staff, but also from community-based organizations who serve these communities. There's just been a lot of people who are very interested in these services.
Jim Heuer [00:02:46] We tried to imagine that bringing these to people in the community that really need them. I mean that what we always talk about, is the leveler of the playing field that libraries serve for the community. What are the aspects that you guys seem to take most pride in, or the things that are the most rewarding? For you to help your patrons.
Susan Broman [00:03:05] Really, it’s the ability to connect people with one-on-one assistance that they may have a hard time getting otherwise. So, like I said, we work with several different community-based organizations, who provide legal assistance right there in the library for people who are both seeking citizenship and dealing with other naturalization issues. We are really proud of providing kind of a whole package of services. So, for example, another thing we do…many of our libraries connected with the initiative of our conversation club. For people to come in and just speak English with their cohorts, with the community members, with the librarians. This is a really positive way to bring communities together, in a way that helps. A really broad spectrum of people. Of course, you know, we never ask what peoples’ citizenship status is. We're open to everyone. All these programs have been really official for bringing communities together.
Donna George [00:04:03] Jim, this reminds me of something that librarian one, Trisha, mentioned in one of our podcasts about the public library being the civic living room of a community. And I think that's exactly what you just described, Susan.
Jim Heuer [00:04:16] Well, and I think one of the things we find fantastic, the Spanish Twitter that LA Public does.
Susan Broman [00:04:22] Yes.
Jim Heuer [00:04:23] I don't speak Spanish. But, I've been told that strong following is one way to get the word out to that community.
Susan Broman [00:04:31] We do. We have a lot of Spanish-speaking librarians throughout our system. We've really taken a strategic approach to how we market to that community and how we communicate with that community. We have a translation team for example, that doesn't just translate things into Spanish, but really takes a look at rewriting things that speak to the communities that its being addressed to. The Spanish language Twitter is a really good example of that. It's not just a translation of our Twitter feed. It’s things that are very specific to that community. That's one of the ways we get the word out. A lot of it is word of mouth, of people who heard from their friend at church or something. This is a thing you can do at the library and will get people coming in for that. The word gets out in a variety of ways. We also have a huge marketing campaign going on. You will drive around LA and see billboards, both English and Spanish, on the New Americans Initiative and how to get help with citizenship and other issues at the library.
Jim Heuer [00:05:36] So, I would imagine having a progressive mayor like our city, behind you, to really help?
Susan Broman [00:05:41] Definitely.
Jim Heuer [00:05:42] If a library, who doesn't have that same type of mayoral support…what would your advice be for them? Your Spanish Twitter seems like it is a great start. What are some of the things that you would suggest to a library to try to do something like this.
Susan Broman [00:05:57] I think really giving all staff members a very thorough understanding of what is being offered and what the library could do for people. One of the things that we have been trying to do is really make it clear what people's rights are. We got a whole page on our website, both in English and Spanish, and Chinese, as well, on know your rights. One of the things we did, was we have had training with all of our staff about those things and how people connect with that. A lot of people aren't going to come to the library and say, "What are my rights?" Our children's librarians are talking to parents at story time. Our teen students librarians are talking to the kids in the library. And they may, you know, in conversation find out that somebody is worried about coming to the library. They're concerned that they might be picked up or the library might be turning over information. Of course, they assure them that doesn't happen, but they also make sure they are being connected with the information that they need to protect themselves. That's a hugely important thing the libraries are doing for those communities.
Donna George [00:07:03] Susan, as you think about the program and how its evolved, what would you say is next? Do you have any expansions or anything on the horizon?
Susan Broman [00:07:13] Well, we are constantly re-evaluating what we are offering and of course, in the current environment, we've really had to take a look at…for example the classes we offer. We're doing a lot of one-on-one things where someone will come in with a very specific issue. We found that people are nervous about that. We're trying to…we're constantly adapting to make sure the services match the needs of the community.
Jim Heuer [00:07:38] It's a really good example of the LA Public Library "leading forward" in the community of LA. That's some really excellent stuff. I can see why the ULC has, you know, awarded you the Top Innovator. Congratulations.
Susan Broman [00:07:50] Thank you. Thank you. We're thrilled. A lot of staff have been working on this project and they're so very, very committed to serving these communities.
Donna George [00:07:59] Kudos to you and the staff of the LA Public Library.
Susan Broman [00:08:04] Thank you.
Jim Heuer [00:08:06] Two Librarians and A Microphone is brought to you by Ingram Library Services. It is a division of Ingram Content Group. Our producer and director is Rachel Cope, sound engineering by Craig Simpson, special assistance by Essence Brisco, and Elizabeth Wilcox. The research done by our librarians, Tricia Bengel and Donna George. I'm Jim Heuer. Thanks most of all to you for listening. Please follow us on Instagram at @thelibrarylife. Tag us in your #thelibrarylife moments, because we got some cool stuff going on, on that social media platform. We're going to be giving away some exclusive books, ARC’s, perhaps a signed copy. In order to make sure you're staying tuned to this podcast, we would love for you to go to our landing page, 2libsandamic.com. But most importantly, the best way to 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 would like to hear. That might help us as were thinking about some of the content were trying to bring you. But, 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.
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