Library grant helps reach underserved populations

Riverview-LibrarywebPhoto courtesy of the Riverview Public Library
Kirk Borger (front row, third from left), Riverview library and youth services director, joins library program volunteers and some of the youth they serve. Adult volunteers who help with the Albanian program include Ilma Leka (second row, left) of Lincoln Park, Noela Leka (back row, left) of Lincoln Park, Viollca Sumbulla (back row, third from left) of Taylor and Filloreta Saraci (second row, right) of Riverview.

Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW – The irony is not lost on Library Director Kirk Borger: Having been passed over for grants during periods of government largesse, it is particularly satisfying to receive federal and state funding when it’s really needed.

And the grant is a boon to the underrepresented ethnic populations he champions.

Locally, that includes a 2 percent to 4 percent Albanian population. Borger also is connecting with Hispanics and immigrants from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

The $25,000 grant from the Library of Michigan and the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, paired with $4,000 in local money, will help him purchase the technology needed to strengthen and grow the Library Immigration Connection Center Program.

In addition to funding 15 wireless laptops, a wireless printer and other equipment, the grant will fund other much-needed programs on Borger’s wish list.

“We will be doing resume and job skill workshops in the fall,” he said, acknowledging their need in light of the area’s challenging economy.

Borger has made a strong commitment to help recent immigrants learn English. What began as a chance to supplement the English as a Second Language program in neighboring Southgate has become a creative and focused effort to reach out to immigrant population with language learning needs.

“The fewer obstacles I put in front of people to learn English, the better,” Borger said.

The library began offering twice-monthly informal conversational groups to let participants evaluate their English language skills. In addition to the practical applications for the participants, it can provide the inevitable but necessary measureable feedback for grant providers.

The English language level of attendees will be evaluated at the beginning and end of each session for grant purposes only. Participants will be provided with progress measurement only if they want it and find it valuable.

ELLIS, an English Language Learning Instruction System, was purchased with some of the grant money. Subscription access to the program allows users to log in from the library, work or home to strengthen their English skills. In addition to helping its core target population, it provides another performance measure with which to evaluate the program.

Borger has fall and winter programs planned that will help immigrants transition to American life, including an introduction to the resources available to both adults and children. The library also will offer computer skills classes in Spanish, Albanian and English.

The library also provides a secular meeting place for the Albanian community, which is represented by the Orthodox, Muslim and Catholic faiths.

Borger continues to add to the library’s collection of Albanian DVDs and books for children and adults—often through donations.
Program updates will be posted on the library’s Web site, Updates are also available by phone at (734) 283-1250.

The library is at 14300 Sibley Road, next to Young Patriots Park’s reflection pond.

It also serves the residents of communities beyond the city limits, especially since it receives state and federal funding. The Library Immigration Connection Center programs are free of charge and open to all Michigan residents.

“I’ve had a lot of community support for this program,” said Borger, “and I’ve had a lot of residents volunteer their time.”

As the Library Immigration Connection Center grows and test the waters, Borger will be writing the book on it – literally, as he develops a manual that will allow other community to develop and benefit from similar programs.

“Programs like this are essential as we continue to work hard to make our state a destination for people from across the country and around the world,” said state Sen. Ray Basham (D-Taylor), a champion of the program.