July 31, 2013
Los Angeles Public Library branches provide free citizenship resources
by Claire Kelley
Los Angeles is a city of 3,800,000 residents with more than 700,000 permanent residents who are eligible for citizenship. Many of these permanent residents don’t where to begin the process because of language barriers. In addition, the list of requirements include payment, paperwork, and tests.
With a program called “Your Path to Citizenship Starts at the Los Angeles Public Library,” which launched in September of 2012, all 73 public library branches in Los Angeles have teamed up with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and non-profit organizations including Catholic Charities, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, to help residents get information and classes about becoming citizens.
“We have heard rumors through our Citizenship Task Force partners that the cost is going up, and the application is going to be longer, so for eligible permanent residents now is a good time to naturalize before these anticipated changes take place,” Melissa Potter, Director of Adult Services at the Los Angeles Public Library told MobyLives. “Education has always been our mission, we are focused on providing information and classes, and at the same time, libraries have become community centers where people come not just to do research but to use computers or wifi access to apply for jobs, or to attend programs. Citizenship programs fit in quite well as another means for people to enrich their lives and connect with their communities.”
The idea of a partnership between citizen and immigration services and public libraries has been such a success, that the Los Angeles initiative (which was presented at the Annual Library Association Conference in Chicago by city librarian John Szabo), received recognition from the Urban Libraries Council, and with the support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), is now spreading to other US cities like Chicago.
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.