Multnomah County Library recognized nationally for work with immigrant communities

PORTLAND, Ore. — July 14, 2011 — This weekend, Multnomah County Library will be presented with a 2011 National Association of Counties Achievement Award for its work with immigrant communities in Multnomah County.

The Resources for Immigrants program is an extension of one of the library's key priorities: to provide immigrants with the information and resources they need to participate successfully in life in the United States. This broad goal is achieved through the key strategies of increased bilingual staff, rich collections, engaging library programs, outreach, and partnerships.

"The library is humbled and grateful for this award from the National Association of Counties," said Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke. "We view this as a recognition of the library's ability to effectively respond to the changing needs of the community, something made possible by countless hours of hard work by incredibly dedicated staff. While this is a milestone for the library, it is clear there is more work to be done here, and we look forward to meeting these challenges, now and in the future."

Multnomah County Library's Resources for Immigrants program has dramatically improved library service. Within the library itself, 77 library staff (up from 30 in 2005) now serve the program at 11 branch libraries, Central Library and in administrative positions including acquisitions, cataloging and early childhood services. The library now features four bilingual youth librarians. Bilingual staff now make up almost 10 percent of the library work force. Today, library staff more closely reflects the demographics of the community it serves.

Because it is important that all Multnomah County Library staff members are skilled at working with our evolving community, the library spent a year providing mandatory cultural effectiveness training for all staff. On an ongoing basis, the library also offers relevant trainings, such as: Russian Culture & Local Community Introduction; Introduction to Chinese Culture; American Muslims: Understanding Those Within Our Community; Vietnamese Culture and Local Vietnamese Community; Survival Workplace Spanish - beginning and intermediate levels; and Tips for Serving Spanish-Speaking Patrons

Library staff now present storytimes in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Russian and Vietnamese at nine library locations. The library also offers computer assistance in Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Vietnamese. Citizenship classes, language learning labs and Talk Time (conversation circles for non-native speakers to practice speaking English) are helping integrate newcomers with free educational resources. 27,246 county residents attended 1,843 programs tailored for these communities last year.

Technical services and bilingual staff have worked together to build library collections in Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Vietnamese. That work has resulted in a 27 percent increase in library materials in these four languages over the past three years. During that same period, usage of these materials has increased 81 percent.

County residents depend on the library to connect them with information and resources. With fully trained bilingual staff, library staff answered almost 60,000 questions in Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Vietnamese in last year.

About Multnomah County Library

Multnomah County Library is the oldest public library west of the Mississippi, with a history that reaches back to 1864. Today, Central Library and the other 18 neighborhood libraries that make up the library system house a collection of two million books and other library materials. As Oregon's largest public library, Multnomah County Library serves nearly one-fifth of the state's population with a wide variety of programs and services. Over 35,000 people use the library each day, either online or in person.