The American Dream Starts @ Your Library

How the American Dream is Starting @ our Library

January 24, 2011 8:14 am

Courtesy, Tulsa City-County (Okla.) Library

Our program provides free and confidential one-on-one tutoring, as well we other learning opportunities such as a book club, computer software and classes, and Conversation Circles. For reasons unbeknownst to us, we tend to attract many very high-level ELLs, such as a recent group of Iranians working on various postgraduate degrees. Just in the last few months, our ELL population has increased from 40% to 47% of our entire student population, nearly catching up with our adult basic literacy learners! Our primary goals for this grant money were to create a simple, user-friendly list of library and community resources for English language learners (ELLs) and to replenish our quickly-dwindling supply of materials for our learners.

Although some people are surprised to learn this, Tulsa has thousands of immigrants who hail from countries all around the world. As a result, there are many programs for ELLs, but it can be difficult for people unfamiliar with the area (and with limited English proficiency) to find the resources they need. As we believe that libraries should provide for the ever changing and growing needs of the community, we wanted our library system to be place in which people can learn about the various resources available for them.

We designed a brochure that includes information about both library and community services. Our library services include our program (The Ruth G. Hardman Adult Literacy Service), Mango and Learn a Test databases, and the Hispanic Resource Center (which is located in another branch.) Community services include both free and fee-based ESL programs, as well as the many services offered by Catholic Charities and the YWCA. Now, instead of having to hunt around for options, people have a list of programs and contact information. We distributed them to our branches; along with them we were able to purchase about eighty copies of a booklet entitled “What Every Immigrant Needs to Know.” This is an informative booklet about various aspects of adjusting to life in the US. It covers topics such as driving, tipping, establishing credit, interacting in social situations, and dozens more.

We have been finding that many of our books just weren’t meeting the needs of our students; as one can imagine, materials geared toward building basic conversational skills just aren’t going to help the young woman who is working on her Ph.D. in electrical engineering at a local university. With this grant, we have been able to purchase intermediate and advanced level materials, such as Face the Issues for those needing speaking/listening help and the Reading Power series for students wanting to build reading skills. We are still searching for more books, and we’re especially in need of a good writing series.

Also through this grant, we’ve been able to purchase eighty Longman Dictionaries of Contemporary English. We’ve been giving these to ESL learners at our student orientation sessions. They are thrilled to receive these user-friendly dictionaries. We also purchased two books: Teaching Adults and PACE Yourself; these are resource books designed to provide tutors with creative, practical ideas and plans for tutoring ELLs. We distributed these at our ESL Tutor Training and at a workshop called “Everything ESL.” Needless to say, tutors were very pleased (and immensely relieved) to have these resources.
We are so thankful for this grant; it has helped, and continues to help, dozens of tutors and learners in our program. In a time when most organizations are facing an increase in demand for services but a decrease in money and resources, this has truly enabled us to continue to provide quality programming to meet the needs in our community. We are excited to see what will happen in the future as our program continues to expand and evolve.

American Dream Starts @ your library – Interview @ HPLD

November 3, 2010 7:44 am

In October 2010, John Amundsen with ALA’s Office for Literacy & Outreach Services visited High Plains Library District in Greeley, Colorado, to discuss plans to hold U.S. Citizenship classes with HPLD’s American Dream Starts @ your library coordinator, Cindy Welsh. Specifically, we talked about the challenges, successes and big-picture goals of providing badly-needed citizenship resources to Greeley’s growing immigrant population.

VIDEO: American Dream Poster Session at ArLA/SELA

October 11, 2010 2:03 pm

On September 27, 2010, The American Dream Starts @ your library hosted a poster session at the Joint Conference of the Arkansas Library Association and the Southeastern Library Association in Little Rock. During the session, American Dream librarians Hadi Dudley and Darby Wallace discussed the challenges, the successes nd their hopes for the future as they develop programs for English Language Learners.

International Literacy Day @ Berwyn (Ill.) Public Library

September 10, 2010 1:49 pm

To mark International Literacy Day, the Berwyn Public Library in Chicago’s Western suburbs held a ceremony to dedicate its new literacy collection. During this ceremony, the Berwyn Public Library renewed its lasting commitment to literacy by honoring retiring District 100 ESL teacher Lucy Barahona, naming its growing literacy collection after her.

This new and valuable community resource was made possible by the efforts of dedicated library professionals and educators in Berwyn, and supported in part by grant from The American Dream Starts @ your library literacy initiative.

American Dream Video – Interview with Hadi S. Dudley

August 3, 2010 7:49 am

In May, Dale Lipschultz and John Amundsen of ALA’s Office for Literacy & Outreach Services visited American Dream libraries in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Bentonville, Arkansas. During the trip, Dale sat down with Hadi Dudley, Director of the Bentonville Public Library, to discuss the American Dream programs underway at BPL, the challenges facing the community,and the naturalization ceremony held in the library earlier that day.

AD @ Annual Conference: The American Dream Starts @ your library session to showcase recipient libraries

June 10, 2010 9:15 am

On Monday, June 28, 10:30-12:00 representatives from the Bentonville (AR) Public Library; Hooper (NE) Public Library; and Wood County (OH) Library District will describe how participation in the American Dream Starts @ your library initiative helps their libraries provide literacy services for adult English language learners.  The session will be held in the auditorium of the Renaissance Washington.

Rebecca Carson, Chief of the Office of Citizenship, US Department of Homeland Security, will open the program and Vivian Wynn, Wynn Library Consulting, will provide an overview of the American Dream Starts @ your library initiative. Hadi Dudley, Bentonville (AR) Public Library; Karla Shafer, Hooper (NE) Public Library; and Maria Simon, Wood County (OH) District Public Library will share their unique experiences and insights and describe how and why the American Dream Starts at their library.

Since the initiative was launched in 2008, 104 public libraries in 24 states have been awarded the grants.  American Dream libraries serve urban, suburban, and rural cities and towns ranging in size from 850 to over 1 million. This project is managed by the ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services and supported by a grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

The program is open to all conference attendees. For more information about the program, visit

C’mon, let’s talk!

May 17, 2010 1:59 pm

Submitted by Cindy Welsh, Outreach Coordinator
High Plains Library District, Greeley, Colorado

“What I really want is for you to talk with each other” wrote Dale Lipschultz in her recent OLOS Columns posting.   A directive for those of us participating in the American Dream Starts @ your library project, Dale’s comment bears repeating—it is indeed important for us to be talking to each other.  Why?  I’ll explain that in a bit, but let me do an introduction first so that you’ll understand why Dale’s wish makes sense to me.   

 My name is Cindy and I’m the Outreach Librarian for the High Plains Library District  (HPLD) based in Greeley, Colorado.  Due to the need for adult literacy resources among our service population (particularly English language acquisition materials), we applied for and received an American Dream Starts @ your library grant in 2008.  HPLD used the funding to donate $300.00 worth of GED, ELA and citizenship materials to each of the eleven Head Start centers in our service area, which is just less than 4000 square miles.   Head Start, in addition to housing the new literacy collections placed in specially-marked plastic tubs (purchased at Dollar General), was to provide a designated computer in every center for adult learners to use while their children attended classes.  The remaining funds were to be used to host a series of open houses at library facilities and/or Head Start centers to promote usage of the literacy tubs, demonstrate online library resources, and issue library cards to Head Start families and staff.   

For the most part, things went as planned.  We selected, purchased and distributed the physical materials to the centers and were able to train Head Start staff on the online resources at a staff training day.  Presentations at parent nights elicited oohs and ahhs from parents and an eagerness to use the literacy tubs.   All the same, every project—no matter how well planned—runs into complications and ours was no exception.  Our biggest obstacle involved a new filter on Head Start’s computer network (at that time operated by the county) that prevented access to the library’s entire website.  Were there other hindrances?  Yes.  Were they insurmountable?  By all means, no.  It helped that I was able to glean ideas from other American Dream librarians for work-arounds.

So, why do we need to be communicating with one another via this blog, e-mails, at conferences or something old-fashioned like the telephone?  

Creativity. True, we American Dream librarians are a creative bunch (need I site our grant proposals as examples?), but sometimes we need to be even more creative and reading about someone else’s efforts might give us an “AHA moment!”

Assistance. As we all know (too well?), these are hard times in library world. We all have to work smarter with reduced resources—even when those are supplemented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation.  Why waste time re-inventing the wheel when another American Dream library may have a solution for you? Yet another reason to make good use of all the resources found in the American Dream Toolkit as well as this blog.

Sustenance.  Just as every caregiver needs some respite, every librarian needs a support system–particularly when you are providing pathbreaking services for your community. We’ll have your back when someone questions why you are doing this important work.  

Time.  Do any of us have too much of it?  It’s the old “a stitch in time saves nine” thing; taking a few minutes to learn about/from someone else’s experience may save you more than you can imagine. 

C(reativity), A(ssistance), S(ustenance), T(ime) = CAST.  We need to talk to because we are the cast in this production.  Dollar General Literacy Foundation is our producer.  Dale, Vivian, John and the rest of the ALA crew are our directors.  Our patrons are our audience and we are the cast.  If we are to wow our audience (and we know they need us to do just that), please our producer, heed our directors and support one another we have to converse.   I’ve just finished my “monologue,” who’s up next?

The Value of Visiting.

1:58 pm

Posted by Dale Lipschultz, OLOS Literacy Officer

Sometimes when I’m in the middle of a large, complex project I temporarily loose sight of what’s really important.  For the last few months, I’ve been buried in American Dream  paperwork – proposals, budgets, contracts, and endless strings of emails.  I know the importance of this kind of paperwork. I also know that it’s what I have to do before I get to do what I love. I love visiting libraries, talking with directors, library staff, and community partners. I love seeing what’s happening at your library.  Last week’s ‘road trip’ to the Wauconda (IL) Area Library confirmed the importance of these face-to-face meetings.

When we were planning this phase of the American Dream project I knew that I wanted to build in time for collaboration and conversation. Of course, I want to see libraries, but that’s only a small part of it. What I really want is for you to talk with each other.

This time around, establishing a virtual community was (relatively) easy – thanks to ALA Connect, Facebook, and John Amundsen. Virtual communities lay the groundwork, but it’s conversations that develop organically and take unexpected turns that really move our work forward.

Whenever possible, I want to bring the American Dream libraries together. We have clusters of libraries – four in South Carolina and New Mexico, five in Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania, seven in North Carolina and New Jersey, and 11 in Illinois. We will reach out to the local ALA chapters.  We’ll certainly will meet at ALA’s Annual Conference and Midwinter meetings.

Right now, we’re looking at calendars and studying local maps. This Thursday we’re traveling to Tulsa, Oklahoma and Bentonville, Arkansas. I’ll keep you posted.