Last month the Sonoma County library system launched a new “American Collection,” a collection of books, multimedia, and other information to educate the public on citizenship, civics and naturalization. The collection, offered at all 12 Sonoma County library branches, is easily browsable, multilingual, and contains a variety of materials to help support those learning English and attempting to acquire citizenship. Nationwide, slightly more than half of immigrants are non-citizens.
“The library really wants to support all of its community members,” says Phil Hoeft, Branch Manager of the Rohnert Park Cotati Library. “Starting this collection was a way that we felt we could do that, as well as promote the diverse populations in our communities. It aligns with our statement of inclusivity, which was put out in June of last year. It states that we are committed to enacting policies and programs that recognize the diversity of our communities and furthering the inclusion of all residents living in Sonoma County. This is really a collection we thought would align with that.”
While the collection will primarily serve the immigrant population of Sonoma County, it will also provide information to anyone interested in our nation’s civil rights, how we can participate more in our communities, and our rights and privileges as citizens.
“Although we’re trying to make it accessible for those who are undergoing the citizenship process, it’s really another way to highlight civics in our community,” says Hoeft. “Even if someone is not really undergoing that process it’s a really great collection where they can learn about their rights and privileges and what it means to be a knowledgeable citizen who is engaged in their community.”
Currently the materials are only offered in English and Spanish, but the library system will consider other languages in the future if in demand. Part of the collection includes a citizenship kit published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which contains booklets, pamphlets, flashcards and more to help someone study for the citizenship process. Some resources will be freely given away, and some, such as books, DVDs, and CDs, will circulate and can be checked out with a library card. Having the information in one dedicated space makes finding the resources easier and more efficient.
“This is much more cohesive, pulling all the materials together in one place,” says Hoeft. “Many of these books are ones we’ve already carried but we’re trying to make them more accessible and readily identifiable.”