On Tuesday, November 1rst, OKCMLC facilitated the 5th in a series of network meetings around the issue of English Language Learning (ELL). These meetings have included participants from:

Catholic Charities
Community Literacy Center (CLC)
Metropolitan Library System (MLS)
Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC)
Oklahoma City Community Foundation (OCCF)
Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS)
Oklahoma Christian University (OC)
Oklahoma City University (OCU)
Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL)
Oklahoma State Department of Education
Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC)
Community Tutors and Volunteers

Rebecca Barker of Oklahoma Department of Libraries and Dr. Robert Griffin of Oklahoma City University TESOL Department hosted the November 1rst meeting. Barker and Griffin presented a project, “Citizenship Corners,” that is a collaboration of OCU, ODL and the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City. The corners will begin in two metro libraries – Southern Oaks and Edmond.

Libraries and literacy programs are collaborating “To meet the needs of immigrants, libraries and literacy programs collaborate to provide services and opportunities for non-English speakers seeking United States citizenship,” according to Barker. ODL, via a grant from the Institute of Museums and Library Services, have collaborated with partners in Altus, Norman and Bartlesville. These models will aid in the formation of the Oklahoma City partnership. The grant requires collaboration between a library and a literacy program.

Citizenship Corners are areas marked with banners and displays and are equipped with computers with bookmarked websites to serve English Language Learners.  United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will provide materials of need and interest.

Services provided vary from one location to another, but include citizenship classes, conversation classes, English/Spanish classes, study pairs, and one to one tutoring. Citizens of thirty-three nations sought assistance in one or more of the first projects. A total of 521 immigrants were served resulting in 31 new citizens, one waiting for interview, and four having made application. Presently 47 are working on the citizenship process.

Changing demographics impact Oklahoma literacy rates and the need for literacy services. Data from the 2014 American Community Survey reported that one in five U.S. residents speak a foreign language at home. The report ranked Oklahoma as one of the states with the largest increase in foreign language speakers from 2000-2013-up 48 percent. In Oklahoma, more than 120,000 individuals age 18 and older who speak a language other than English responded that they speak English “less than very well,” with Spanish and Vietnamese as the top two non-English languages spoken.

“ Rebecca and I met in previous ELL network meetings and began the conversation about this project. We are excited to put this plan into action with the Metropolitan Libraries. Our project is partly a result of the OKCMLC ELL meetings,” Dr. Robert Griffin.

“This project has benefited not only immigrants, but also library staff, and communities at large.” Rebecca Barker. Surveys of learners disclosed greater confidence to speak in meetings and with doctors, and teachers; excitement about participating in the voting process; literacy; courage to start a business and less fear and appreciation for the libraries and literacy councils. Library staff participated in training to increase understanding of the naturalization process and increase sensitivity to patrons seeking help. Testimonials from librarians included appreciation for the citizenship journey and the effort it requires, more assurance in serving patrons and more confidence in providing informed referrals.

In preparation for putting the project in place, there will be a November 10th training for OCU TESOL student teachers and library staff. On November 16th there will be a USCIS training open to the public but seating is limited. RSVP by November 9.


Rebecca Barker, Ok. Dept. of Libraries, Host
Dr. Robert Griffin, OCU TESOL Department, Host
Jessica Abdallah, OCCC ESL Civics Coordinator
LaVetta Dent, Metropolitan Library Systems
Rady Sharkova-Foster, OCCC ESL/TOEFL Coordinator
Leslie Gelders, ODL
Alicia Mumba, OCU
Dr. Gail Nash, Ok. Christian University TEFL Department
Melodie Lance, Catholic Charities
Blair Lanning, Opportunities Industrialization Center, tutoring coordinator
Kelly Rhia, Community Outreach Metropolitan Library System
Ashley Rhone, ELL instructor/tutor
Julie Serven, Decision Grid Storytelling
Laura Taylor, Community Literacy Center
Randy Wayland, Metropolitan Library System
Mary Surbeck, OKCMLC, facilitator of ELL Network Meetings