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Services to New Immigrants: Overview

"Public libraries in the United States have a long history of providing resources and education to immigrants.


In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 13%, or over 40 million people, in the U.S. were immigrants, defined as people residing in the U.S. who were not U.S. citizens at birth. This is about the same percentage as when ALA published The Polish Immigrant and His Reading, by Eleanor E. Ledbetter, (ALA, 1924), as part of the series, “Library work with the foreign born.”  (We also published similar titles for Greek, Italian, and German immigrants.) 

The need for services remains, and today includes supporting community information referral services, English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, job search assistance, literacy classes, assistance with gaining citizenship, and, of course, the traditional reading for entertainment and enlightenment.

Since January 2007, the American Library Association (ALA), in partnership with the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, has funded 100 libraries in 28 states through American Dream grants.  Each library received a onetime grant of $5,000 to add or improve literacy services to adult English language learners and their families.  With these grants, the libraries expanded ESL collections, taught classes, hosted conversation circles, trained tutors, increased computer access, build community partnerships, and raised the library’s visibility.

ALA Policies and Guidelines

ALA Initiatives

Select Resources on Library Services to New Immigrants

Sources for Readers Advisory


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ALA Library
ALA Library
50 E. Huron St.
Chicago IL 60611
800-545-2433 x2153