Tag Archives: ESL Readers’ Advisory

Topics in RA for Immigrant Readers

This year the interactive section of RA in a Half Day was led by our guest speaker, Keren Dali who provided us an opportunity to share insights, develop conversations, and exchange ideas about serving immigrant and ESL readers.

Discussion Topic #1

In discussing the use of fiction or films set locally, such as in Vancouver, the thought was that this would generate good integrated programming for newcomers, “old-timers” (immigrants already settled into the community), and native residents. Struggles included how to attract the mixed audience, how to evaluate it, and, in smaller communities, finding specific local materials.

The suggestion when talking about inclusive and integrated book clubs was that you could encourage integration by building immigrant reader opportunities into an existing book club. Concerns included worries about choosing materials translated into enough different languages, who would select the titles, could the library have them available in all necessary languages, and how to promote it. Dali encouraged us to accept the idea that libraries will not always be the place where readers get their copy of the book. Discuss this issue with the book club members, because if you buy the book in many languages, many of those books will never again circulate after the book club is finished with them.

Group Discussion

In discussing the solicitation of feedback from immigrant groups including operating multilingual advisory groups, it was easy to list numerous advantages. A multilingual advisory group could crowd source local expertise in literature from various languages, helps the library develop a clearer picture of the need of these readers, mitigates the lack of formal research available on the subject of immigrant and ESL reader communities, and increases awareness of the collections and services libraries offer while building comfort and agency in that section of the community. There were definite concerns over having some local language communities or certain individuals dominate the conversation, a concern that Dali actually stressed on several occasions in her talk. In addition there were concerns about the level of understanding and expertise that the community had in using library tools like BiblioCommons or even in how to analyse the qualities of and recommend reading material.

In thinking about specific ESL communities that our libraries serve, the issue of having staff who speak the language of the immigrant communities was a major theme. Some libraries were struggling to serve smaller foreign language communities when they have a huge dominant foreign language community they have already identified and designed significant services for. A big part of the discussion revolved around how to break into these smaller language groups. Additional concerns revolved around how to assess the literacy level of various local language communities in their own native tongues so that our multilingual collections are representative of their reading level needs.

More Group Discussion

A discussion on multilingual collections including selection, management, and marketing them included some useful suggestions including building community partnership programs, employing pop-up surveys on the website and in house, contacting local adult education programs, and advertising to immigrant families via story time. Concerns included finding a good source for materials purchases, managing the scope including both your staffing and monetary resources, figuring out how to make the contacts, and dealing with a significant lack of knowledge in our communities generally (but yes in immigrant communities especially) about what is offered at libraries. They really encourage perseverance in connecting with these communities and educating them on library collections and services, a point that Dali re-enforced as being critical. Keep talking about your libraries programs and collections and keep working to build trust in with community.

A big thanks to the wonderful RA in a Half Day participants who shared some great conversations and ideas!

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Keren Dali Kicks Off RA in a Half Day 2014

Another exciting RA in a Half Day from the BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest Group kicked off in the Richmond Cultural Centre with on opening welcome from Theresa de Sousa, Librarian at Richmond Public Library. Again this year, BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest  would like to thank Library Bound for sponsoring the event.

Barbara Edwards, Community Relations Librarian at Vancouver Public Library introduced the first speaker of the day, Keren Dali, a researcher who studies the reading experiences of immigrants. Chock full of practical ideas and positive messages, Dali offered a wonderful amount of insight into how immigrants pursue and think about reading for leisure. She emphasized the interest of immigrant readers in reading in English, genre fiction, and not the obvious “easy reader” materials. However, they often do not understand how the North American publishing industry works (assuming, for instance, that hardbacks are unabridged and paperbacks are abridged), nor have experience in the vast array of genres that we have in the English literature tradition. They need guidance in understanding the landscape of English language reading materials from how the publishing industry and libraries work to the basics of genre designations and the big name authors in these genres. Find out what is popular in literature in their native language and help them translate that appeal into the appeal of various English language literature genres.

Communicating with people new to your own native language will produce interaction fatigue (repeating yourself, consciously simplifying your language, slowing your speech, making them repeat themselves). This is natural, reduces with practice, but can inspire anxiety and cause us to try to shorten these transactions or make us abrupt. Warmth, interest, and positivity in are critical in the Readers Advisory transactions as part of these inter-cultural interactions that are building their comfort and proficiency in Canadian society. Dali suggests that we often think of immigrant readers in our libraries as “newcomers” but many are actually “old-timers” who have been in the country a few years and are already adjusting to the culture. They are ready to move beyond materials on the immigrant experience, easy reader materials, and they want to move away from being served as readers with special needs. Above all, she encourages us to “ASK YOUR READERS!” Develop these conversations actively and via workshops, mixed ESL book groups, and immigrant advisory groups so that we are building relationships in this community and helping this population to develop comfort and build connections here.

Next up, Keren Dali will be leading us in an interactive activity on immigrant Readers Advisory services.