Immigrants constitute 29 percent of the population of Manhattan and the Bronx and 16 percent of Staten Island’s population. The Library helps non-English speaking immigrants understand and interact with the culture, government, and educational system of the United States.
The Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the three boroughs served by The New York Public Library, are home to 3.3 million residents, and one-third of the City’s immigrant population.
Statistical information issued by the US Census Bureau indicates that New York City’s immigrant population continues to rise dramatically. Immigrants constitute 29 percent of the population of Manhattan and the Bronx and 16 percent of Staten Island’s population. More than half the city’s residents speak a language other than English at home and approximately one in four residents have difficulty with English (The Newest New Yorkers, 2005). In these ethnically diverse neighborhoods, the need among residents for English language skills and civics competency remains high.
Immigrants play a crucial role in the City’s labor market, comprising 43 percent of all city residents in the labor force in 2000. However, because of limited communication skills, immigrant workers are over-represented in the often lower-paying service, manufacturing, and construction industries, and many reside in some of the City’s poorest neighborhoods (New York City Department of City Planning). A lack of English proficiency and education directly correlate with the percentage of immigrant New Yorkers who live in poverty.
Among the many services the Library offers to its communities is instruction in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Over the years, the Library’s English language learning program has enrolled New Yorkers from more than 70 countries, including immigrants from the Dominican Republic, China, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Ecuador, India, Korea, Vietnam, Russia, Poland, Puerto Rico, and Thailand. The Library’s classes not only help non-English speaking immigrants understand and interact with the culture, government, and educational system of the United States, they also open access to the multitude of free library services and resources available to help them navigate these institutions.
The demand for ESOL classes in New York City far exceeds available resources. According to New York Immigration Coalition, member organizations consistently identify the shortage of ESOL classes as one of the most critical issues facing immigrant adults in their communities. The demand is overwhelming—so much so that a number of providers hold lotteries to decide who can attend their classes. Because the Library is one of few providers in New York City offering this service free-of-charge to students at the most basic level of English proficiency, classes are filled to capacity, and thousands of students must be turned away each year.
Free Instructional English Language Learning Materials available for New York City Adult Education Programs
Public Space, Above and Below (Audio)
Carol St. Pierre (Audio)
Wole Soyinka (Video)
Harold Bloom (Video)
A.B. Yehoshua (Video)
Mark Salzman (Video)
Backstage with COLM TOIBIN (Video)
Backstage with Karen Armstrong (Video)
Derek Walcott (Video)
Zadie Smith (Video)
Siddhartha Mukherjee (Video)
Backstage with Edwidge Danticat (Video)
Backstage with SLAVOJ ZIZEK (Video)
Jay-Z: Decoded (Video)
KEITH RICHARDS: Life (Video)
JOHN WATERS: Role Models (Video)
A Tribute to GEORGE CARLIN (Video)
FERRAN ADRIA: A Day at el Bulli (Video)