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Multicultural Internship Program

Brooklyn Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Jennifer Thompson, Multicultural Internship Program Project Manager, j.thompson@brooklynpubliclibrary.org

Problem Statement

Brooklyn, NY has a growing non-English speaking population. 2006 data from the American Community Survey (ACS) showed that nearly 38% of Brooklyn’s 2.5 million residents are foreign born and 45.8% of residents speak a language other than English at home. Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) realized we could better serve our residents and encourage youth development by engaging teens from diverse communities and introducing them to the field of librarianship. The Multicultural Internship Program (MIP) was created to connect teens to their communities, provide assistance for non-native speakers and to give teens an inside look into libraries.

Innovation

In 2009, BPL received a grant from IMLS/Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program to start MIP. The program recruits 170 high school students over three years and offers four core trainings, skill building workshops, fieldtrips to archives, academic and museum libraries, forums, focus groups and 200 hours of community service. Interns volunteer around 8-10 hours per week in out-of-school time with librarian mentors at one of our 60 library locations. As interns, they participate in a variety of activities: creating and delivering programming, community outreach, providing tech support and assisting with language interpretation and translation. As one intern notes, this program “helps you learn what is in your library, the core of the library.”

Progress

MIP improves library services, supports diverse communities and develops teens as future library leaders. Library staff learns to incorporate youth development principles and report discovering new successful programming ideas by collaborating with teen interns. With over 20 different languages spoken by the interns, the teens bridge language gaps between library staff and patrons. Their growth as leaders is evident by their participation and presentation at library and youth advocacy events such as Love Your Library Day 2010. As noted by an external evaluator, “they were effective ambassadors for the library. They told their families, friends, and patrons about library services. They invited people into the library and were proud to serve them.”