EDITORIAL: Library grant can unify communities

Access to information is fundamental aspect of American values

Last Friday, 20 public libraries in the U.S. received a $10,000 grant meant to help supply resources for adult English-language learners as part of the American Dream Literacy Initiative. The New Brunswick Free Public Library was one of the chosen institutions, and the money will go toward providing English as a second language (ESL) members of the community with education and workforce training. The money is distributed by the American Library Association (ALA) and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, and according to the ALA’s press release the grants give libraries the ability to increase their access to print and digital ESL collections, increase computer access and training, provide job training, hold English-language learning (ELL), general educational development (GED) and citizenship classes, among other things. 

Being that approximately 36 percent of New Brunswick’s population is foreign born, it is clear how much this grant can do for the community. While diversity can act as our strength, that strength cannot be capitalized on if communication between individuals is hindered in any way. Members of society that cannot speak the common language have difficulty integrating and finding their place in the larger community. This program can allow us to better utilize our diversity as a tool by unifying New Brunswick through language. If everyone can communicate sufficiently, we are all more likely to prosper. 

One argument often flippantly exacted against the protection of undocumented immigrants in our communities is the idea that they are less likely to be able to speak English, and therefore have no means of contributing anything significant to our society. With this initiative, that argument weakens. Now, more doors will be open to ESL members of our community, and more immigrants will be able to do their part and make a difference — just as they want to do. 

But another issue may arise with this initiative. If people in New Brunswick who are not proficient in English happen to be undocumented immigrants, there is reason for them to be wary of taking part in this program. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has carried out relatively recent hard-hitting raids in New Brunswick — why should our community’s undocumented immigrants feel safe attending this program when by doing so they are seemingly asking to be noticed? ICE’s activity could very well act as a deterrent from participation in the initiative, which would likely keep our town’s immigrant population stagnant in terms of education. 

Additionally, it is not uncommon for immigrants in this nation to be taken advantage of in some sense. The language barrier brings about confusion, and someone who is not fluent in the common language literally may not be able to speak up for themselves efficiently. As a result of this and simply not having the technical skills to work better paying jobs, many immigrants are poor. To keep up with necessary spending for themselves and their families, many immigrants work multiple jobs and may not have time to participate in the initiative. 

So while this initiative is very important, more needs to be done to allow our community’s immigrants to feel safe. Flexibility must also exist within the program’s schedule, to ensure that all those who wish to participate are able to. On a foundational level, libraries in this country are for everyone, no matter who they are. Freedom of information and the sharing of ideas is one of the most fundamental aspects of our society, and the more informed the people within our borders are, the better.  


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff. 

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