Rolling Out the Welcome Mat at Broward County Library

The ALA/Info As we speak, Inc. Library of the Future Award is offered to a company that plans, develops, and applies a patron-training program that explores IT in a library setting. The 2020 winner is Broward County Library system within the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., space, for its use of Amazon Echo units in its branches as a part of its Challenge Welcome initiative, which helps English-language learners and newcomers to the area get comfy with library companies.

Catherine McElrath, publication specialist at Broward County Library, writes within the award software that Challenge Welcome is designed to advertise the library’s assets and help clients “on their path in direction of literacy, financial prosperity and a way of belonging.” The initiative’s goal members are these within the largest non-English-speaking communities in Broward County—Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Portuguese households.


McElrath describes Challenge Welcome’s two elements: Partaking (welcoming and attracting newcomers to the library) and Transitioning (providing mentoring and a collection of programming). Each are supported by the voice expertise of the Echo (i.e., Alexa for Enterprise) to assist bridge language obstacles, she writes. Library staffers can ask Alexa to translate phrases and phrases into the required language.

Through the Partaking half, the library provides its advertising supplies and different assets, akin to a welcome video, in a number of languages (English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Portuguese). McElrath notes that Broward County Library is the primary system within the nation to have Echo units at each public service level. To complement them, library staffers have devoted tablets that may translate languages Alexa can’t deal with.

For the Transitioning half, McElrath writes that the Welcome Ambassador program gives volunteer mentors for individuals who have simply moved to Broward County. They “assist scale back the stress of cultural adjustment, strengthen linkages with important companies and assets, and open doorways to group involvement and household actions.” This half is about displaying new clients that the library “is a protected, welcoming, free place to entry assets and companies that may make adjusting to their new house simpler.” The Transitioning half additionally options English and citizenship courses.

Vonda Ward Bryant, studying companies coordinator at Broward County Library, leads Challenge Welcome. She says that the initiative finds and reaches out to clients by way of the library’s web site, e-newsletter, social media, companion companies, inside program bulletins, multilingual movies, posters and different signage, fliers, and courses targeted on citizenship, amongst different avenues. These strategies, together with phrase of mouth and varied outreach, make sure that those that will profit from Challenge Welcome will be capable of take part. Nevertheless, Bryant notes, “Broward County Library English, Citizenship, and different language courses have reached greater than 3,000 in attendance month-to-month, however that quantity solely scratches the floor of the whole variety of clients who want and need to take part in these applications and companies.”

Bryant says that her “objective is to make Broward County Library the library that welcomes everybody.” She cites the county’s demographics reporting, Broward by the Numbers, which reveals that 33.7% of its residents are foreign-born, and greater than 40% communicate a language aside from English at house.


Bryant and the library’s grants coordinator utilized for an $80,000-plus Library Providers and Expertise Act (LSTA) grant for FY2018, which paid for Challenge Welcome’s startup prices, together with a advisor, a video manufacturing firm, translation companies, advertising, and the Echo units. The funds additionally helped pay for the growth of the library’s applications and companies to cater to latest immigrants. Though Challenge Welcome had a core crew of 10 library staffers, greater than 40 staffers and 24 volunteers contributed to getting the initiative began, Bryant says.

In accordance with Bryant, in the course of the grant interval—October 2018 to September 2019—the crew confronted a number of delays. The advisor couldn’t come on board till 2 months after they’d been chosen, as a result of county’s background-screening course of. The interpretation gear (which the grant software had recognized as scanners for translating paperwork and webcam-based interpretation companies for patrons) needed to undergo a protracted purchasing-approval course of. Then the crew needed to discover a video manufacturing firm that might create multilingual welcome movies. The crew finally deserted the concept of the unique translation gear and determined to go together with a voice assistant, which is how the library ended up with Echo units.

The native media companies firm, Broward Training Communications Community (BECON), which provides video content material to the county public faculties, agreed to assist with the welcome video. “The Challenge Welcome video script was created, written, and translated by Broward County Library workers,” says Bryant. BECON “employed native audio system from a neighborhood tutoring company to be the expertise. Broward County Library workers and volunteers additionally served as extras within the movies in addition to offered library program info so as to add to the video footage.”


The 2 main assets of the Transitioning a part of Challenge Welcome have had an excellent stage of curiosity. The Welcome Ambassador program “is designed to welcome and information newcomers (English language learners) as they regulate to dwelling in Broward,” says Bryant. “Welcome Ambassadors are bilingual volunteers who might be paired with newcomers and their households to be able to share with them the essential assets Broward County Library has to supply, assist them navigate different Broward County companies, companies, and alternatives.” There are about 15 volunteers up to now. 

Bryant notes that the library has “performed trials with the Echo units in choose English Café courses.” English Café programming is a collection of courses for intermediate-level English audio system. “Due to Challenge Welcome, the library has expanded its Primary English Café courses. … Seventeen branches have provided Primary English courses within the final yr”—a complete of 714 courses with attendance of greater than 9,000.

“Workers coaching can be a key element of the undertaking,” says Bryant. “Cultural sensitivity trainings have been developed and made obtainable to all workers.” As well as, companion collaborations have allowed Challenge Welcome to supply “a collection of applications in Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Portuguese associated to immigration regulation, job coaching, laptop expertise, the American instructional system, parenting expertise, well being points, and many others. By participating professionals fluent within the goal languages to current these workshops, newcomers may have entry to important info, even when they don’t seem to be fluent in English.”


“The recommendation I’d give to a library trying to implement [its] personal Challenge Welcome is to analysis, survey, develop, plan,” says Bryant. Determine your native demographics from the newest census or different public information: who your clients are, what languages they communicate, and what international locations they arrive from, in addition to their ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, political affiliations, and cultures and traditions. “Subsequent, survey your group and decide the shoppers’ wants and expectations from a library,” says Bryant. “Decide in case your workers represents (mirrors) your library group. If that’s the case, these workers can help with growing relations with the group teams represented within the analysis. Recruit volunteers and collaborate with native organizations to ascertain a welcome activity drive that may work to develop, plan, and fund companies to welcome all into your group. Present customer support and fairness, range, and inclusion coaching for all workers, volunteers, and companions. Develop a slogan or theme that every one organizations locally can use,” and don’t neglect to periodically consider how the initiative goes utilizing inside and exterior suggestions.


Bryant says that in the course of the pandemic, the library’s programming and literacy staffers have been “making ready and facilitating digital applications, which can proceed as soon as we’re re-opened. Broward County Library in-person occasions as soon as the library re-opens are but to be decided.” Nevertheless, the library “will proceed to supply applications and companies in a number of languages” in some capability.

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