Welcome Refugees with eBooks that Speak Their Language

3 min read

| By Jeff Levine, Patron Services Manager, The Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County, NY |

Our library system’s mission, to engage the community in life-long learning through equal access to information, technology, gathering spaces and expert staff, might sound very familiar to some of you. Engaging the community and life-long learning is something that many libraries strive to do.

It’s the latter that mission Rochester takes great pride in, providing equal access to information, technology, gathering spaces and expert staff. During the last 50 years or so, our library’s surrounding communities have become a major center for refugees, particularly individuals from Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Subsaharan Africa, and the Caribbean. For us, providing equal access to information and technology is a priority, but adapting to changes in technology while ensuring we meet the needs of our diverse community hasn’t been the easiest of endeavors.

We want our library to be a place that provides a range of learning opportunities with a special emphasis on helping those establishing their life, and bright future, in America.


We see our patrons speaking and reading in various languages, but they often come to our library to learn and improve their English. Gale eBooks on GVRL have been a wonderful tool for new readers. The wealth of content and ability to change languages on the interface and article-level allows us to support so many patrons with a single resource. We’ve especially had a great response to our health content. Patrons come to us seeking information about serious illnesses and our content on GVRL often provides them with the answers they’re looking for, in their preferred language.

We’ve taken great pleasure in recognizing that the learning process is often a family affair with children learning the same language alongside their parents. While the parents may be focusing on health or job skills, you can find their children using Gale eBooks on GVRL for homework help.


Gale eBooks on GVRL have been a tremendous asset in our English as a Second Language programming. We offer an English class almost daily at our branches, with our Wednesday class now six years strong. One of the classes recently went outside the library walls and visited a statue in a nearby park that honors the friendship of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Called “Let’s Have Tea,” the suffragist and the abolitionist sit together, slightly larger-than-life, enjoying tea and conversation.

The statue was created by Pepsy Kettavong who in 1980, at the age of eight, escaped with his family from Communist-led Laos in a canoe. After two years in a Thai refugee camp, they found sanctuary in Rochester.

After their park visit, the class returned to the library to learn more about Anthony and Douglass using Gale eBooks on GVRL, energized no doubt by the statue’s compelling history and creator’s life story as well as the world of opportunities that await them with their new skills.

GVRL and its adaptability to users’ needs has helped empower countless members of our refugee community as they assimilate to daily life in America.  From excelling at education and job opportunities to learning a new language and understanding serious medical matters, we’re honored to support so many success stories in our mission of providing equal access to Rochester residents.

Discover what Gale eBooks on GVRL has to offer gale.com/gvrl18


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