« Back to Education

United States Citizenship Resources

San Francisco Public Library

Problem Statement

San Francisco has a population of approximately 800,000 residents and with a density of nearly 16,000 people per square mile. San Francisco is the second most densely populated major city in the United States. Similar to Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, San Francisco is a minority-majority city. Asian Americans compose about one third of the population and Chinese Americans constitute the largest single racial group within San Francisco at around one fifth of the population. Hispanics in San Francisco make up around 14 percent of the population. With more than a third of city residents (35 percent) born outside the United States, San Francisco is one of the most linguistically diverse in the country. The most frequently used languages spoken at home other than English include Spanish, Russian, Cantonese, Mandarin, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Korean.

October 2008 marked a major change in the US citizenship exam; not only were the questions scheduled to change, but the guidelines for taking the exam also were changed. Given the large diversity within San Francisco, the library citizenship resources are in high demand. Once the exam changes were announced, most vendors providing the heavily used materials in estimated a 10-16 month response time before materials would be available. In addition, the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services primarily offered new resources in English. Because the current citizenship materials were heavily used, it because critical to respond to the need using internal resources.


San Francisco Public Library partnered with the Seattle Public Library, and King County Library Systems to develop online, print and video content for users to be delivered on the SFPL website and in print at local libraries. Each library created printable content and location specific content that targeted users in their areas. The resources included detailed practice materials in eight languages (English, Spanish, Russian, Cantonese, Mandarin, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Korean) and included the new citizenship exam practice questions. In addition, SFPL developed a 3 minute introductory video in each language explaining the changes in the exam, the resources, and how to start the citizenship exam process.

This multimedia and multilingual project allowed SFPL to meet the needs of a broader user base through offering the content in multiple formats. The new service approach also provided a tool for staff to use with patrons needing an overview of the citizenship process in their first language.


  • Online introductory videos explaining how to begin the citizenship process offered in eight languages (English, Spanish, Russian, Cantonese, Mandarin, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Korean.
  • Print and online guides to naturalization and the new exam study questions in all eight languages
  • Complete resource outlining population and location specific organizations to assist with citizenship in all eight languages.
  • Highlighted in national library press including Library Journal (www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6628327.html)
  • The online resource can be viewed at: http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=2000011201
  • 83,548 users have accessed the new resources accounting for a 22% increase in overall use of SFPL online citizenship materials.
  • A total of 17 libraries and other community organizations link to the citizenship resource as a primary referral for citizenship information.