This is the first national study to consider the impact of specialized library services to non- English speakers both in terms of barriers to developing language-based services and regarding perceived success of these services as reported through anecdotal information by library staff. This study also looked closely at library service area population and patron proximity to the closest library branch as a market service indicator. It is anticipated that libraries, library supporters, and the research community will find this study valuable as a planning tool. The study principals also hope this study will spark additional, more detailed research in the area of specialized public library services.
Three themes emerged:
• Spanish is far and away the most supported non-English language in public libraries. Seventy-eight percent of libraries reported Spanish as the priority #1 language to which they develop services and programs.
• Smaller communities are serving a larger proportion of non-English speakers. The majority of libraries serving non-English speakers are in communities with fewer than 100,000 residents (484 of all responding libraries).
• Literacy is both a barrier to using library services designed for non-English speakers and is what most libraries support in specially designed services and programs.
American Library Association (2007). Serving non-English speakers in U.S. public libraries: 2007 Analysis of library demographics, services and programs. Chicago, IL: American Library Association. http://www.ala.org/aboutala/sites/ala.org.aboutala/files/content/olos/nonenglishspeakers/docs/Linguistic_Isolation_Report-2007.pdf