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Community Learning Plaza

Denver Public Library
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Problem Statement

Need for our non-English or limited English proficiency speaking newcomers and their families to work on gaining confidence in their use of English in their daily lives. Our non-English and limited proficiency English speakers needed additional opportunities to practice and explore their new language and community life in a supportive environment.


Creating a flexible program format called the Community Learning Plaza, that is structured to facilitate useful, in the moment assistance with specific skills needed as requested by participants in this target population. We utilize a variety of activities ranging from bringing in volunteer guests to discuss various topics in small groups, to making accessible supplies and materials for participants to work on their own projects, as well as include technology, staffing and every resource possible at this time to facilitate the success of our participants in their own projects.


The Denver Public Library’s Tu Biblioteca Hoy / Your Library Today project staff was interested in additional information about our participants’ satisfaction with our programs and services to non-English speakers. To this end, we conducted two focus groups to allow Spanish-speaking participants to discuss their experience and offer feedback on this work to the library staff. The focus groups were conducted by OMNI, an independent evaluating firm, in May 2009. The results of the focus groups confirmed the usefulness of the programs including our newest pilot the Community Learning Plaza (CLP). The specific comments about the CLP programming expressed appreciation for the flexibility to choose what to do during this program, as well as the ability to have a place for additional English practice. Participants also made recommendations for the library to increase number of times the CLP programs were offered as well as offering this program immediately after our more traditional English learning programming. To quote the report: “…practicing in this environment helps them to be more self-motivated”, and also that the CPLs “…allow one to practice what was most recently learned” (page 11, Denver Public Library Tu Biblioteca Hoy Program: Report of May 2009 Focus Groups Findings; OMNI Institute).

At this moment further development of CLP activities will be enhanced through a proposal under consideration by one of our funders. The project staff of this program is already excited to share this innovative service that has demonstrated great potential in its pilot stage to serve our diverse community in a new way.