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Cedar Rapids Public Library Welcomes International Community with Online Service

January 25, 2023 | Community Development, Economic Development & Workforce

Cedar Rapids Public Library

According to the latest census data, nearly 7% of the population in Cedar Rapids was born outside of the United States. They help fill our workforce shortage and fuel our economy, all while facing language barriers. Getting news from their homeland in their native tongue can be a welcomed comfort.

The Cedar Rapids Public Library began offering an online service this past summer that provides this homey comfort.
“Inclusion for everyone in our community is part of the strategic plan of the library,” Charity Tyler, Executive Director for the Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation explains. “We feel that it’s important to provide access to information, which is a challenge for English language learners. We want them to know they are welcome and a part of our community.”

PressReader, funded by the CRPL Foundation, is an online service that allows library card holders free access to more than 7,000 magazines and newspapers in 64 different languages from around the world. Anyone with a library card, which also is free to all Cedar Rapids residents, can log in on their phone or computer and read a publication from their home country in their native language.

“Paying for print subscriptions for news from your homeland can get expensive,” adds Erin Horst, Materials Manager. “This is just one less expense they need to worry about while trying to become acclimated to a new way of life in a new country. And it supports the library’s mission to be welcoming and inclusive for everyone in our community.”

Since adding the PressReader service in July, usage typically averages around 3,000 to 4,000 articles read per month. Horst said they want to broaden the languages the library has available, especially Spanish and French, the latter due to an increase in Cedar Rapids’ Congolese immigrant population, which primarily speak French or Swahili.

In addition to promoting the service to the general public through social media and other communication avenues, the library works with organizations that work directly with immigration populations such as the United Way, the Catherine McCauley Center and the Cedar Rapids Community School District to let them know about the resources the library offers.

“We want to get the word out to employers and businesses, anyone who is working with immigrant populations,” Horst says. “We want them to know that there really is something for everybody at the library, not only through this service but also in person. The library card opens up so much for everyone. I can’t say enough about how caring and thoughtful our staff is. They really want to help people who are new to the area, from all over the world, feel like this is home.”