At Carnegie Libraries across Pittsburgh, there's an addition that many patrons probably didn't even notice. But to some people who frequent the libraries, the Welcome Centers are a huge resource,
The centers are a section of the library devoted to resources, programs and groups to help immigrants get comfortable in Pittsburgh. Right now, they are located at eight different libraries, placed in communities with high populations of immigrants and internationals.
"For a lot of immigrants and internationals and newcomers they may not have experienced a public library in their home country," said Rita Botts, a librarian who helped spearhead the welcome center initiative.
Botts helps run a program the library also offers called "Let's Speak English." Channel 11 stopped by one night as 30 students gathered in a classroom at the library in Oakland. Those students, along with volunteers, work on their English skills through facilitated group discussions. Volunteers told us the classes go beyond speaking skills.
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"It's much more than the helping them to learn and practice the language it's building that sense of community," said Lindsey Matesic.
The class we attended had at least a dozen different countries represented that day. The library says it is important to help immigrants connect with Pittsburgh because they become vital contributors to the community.
Channel 11 spoke with Lisa Raymond, who volunteers time each week helping immigrants and anyone else in the library with resume and interview skills. She told us it can be overwhelming transferring skills between countries and starting over from scratch. She says the skills she helps teach, last forever.
"Those individuals I work with don't hold on to those skills," Raymond said. "They pass them onto their family. They pass them onto their neighbors,"
The library has a welcome video posted on its website in several different languages to help immigrants learn more about the offered programs.
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