The following is an Interview with Melissa Rivera, Youth Services Specialist at the Knight Memorial library in Providence which is located closest to where Syrian Refugee Families have been located.
How well prepared do you think the library was to receive Syrian refugees?
None of the circ staff, reference librarians or children’s staff were prepared. None of the staff at Knight know how to speak Arabic.
What efforts have been made here at Knight Memorial Library to engage the refugees in library usage?
After noticing the refugees had a difficult time in understanding the usage of the Hot Spot, Rod ( Library Manager) took the initiative to translate PCL’s Hot Spot Policy. He tried his best to translate the policy to Arabic and only then it seemed to help our Syrian patrons get a better understanding of how to check out free WIFI.
In what ways do you notice the refugees utilizing library services?
The refugees only use the library to check out Hot Spots and movies. We would love for them to attend our children’s programs and also check out learning English language materials.
What would be helpful to your library in order to engage these users?
An Arabic translator would be extremely helpful for the patrons and also for the Knight staff. Also adding Arabic materials to our collection (fiction and non fiction books, audio books, juvenile fiction and non fiction books, etc). Possibly have an ESL teacher who speaks Arabic and is able to teach the Syrian refugees English.
What plans does the library have to help the Syrian refugees in the future?
Unknown. Possibly thoughts of collaborating with Dorcas International Institute.
Do you have any stories you would like to share about your interactions with these patrons?
I haven’t had many interactions with the Syrian refugee patrons per say but the circ staff seem to have day to day questions from them… example, is a Hot Spot available and if not, can we place our name on the waiting list.