Library offers summer reading program in 6 languages to increase accessibility

The Iowa City Public Library has increased language accessibility through offering materials in many different languages and adding outreach programs.


Alyson Kuennen

Junior fiction books rest on shelves at the Iowa City Public Library in Iowa City on Tuesday, February 5, 2019.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

For kids looking for fun and learning over the summer, the Iowa City Public Library offers a space to keep their brains sharp. This year, even more local children will have the opportunity to participate in summer reading in a variety of languages.

The Public Library is printing materials for the summer reading program in six languages this year in an effort to increase equity and accessibility at the library.

Kids will have the option to access summer reading program materials in Spanish, French, Swahili, Chinese, Arabic, and English.

Library children’s services coordinator Angela Pilkington said children often translate for their parents when accessing library services, and providing more languages can help kids and their parents connect to the library.

The languages chosen for the summer reading were based on the most common languages spoken in Iowa City according to the last census, she said.

The Public Library has focused on increasing equity across the board as part of its equity-toolkit initiative.

“Last year, we started working with the city on an equity-tool kit initiative to make sure everything that we’re doing is equitable across the board,” Pilkington said. “We had our library-card applications done in four different languages. I was just like, we should do our summer reading logs in different languages that really appeal to the communities.”

This year, the summer reading program has a space theme, “A Universe of Stories.” Children will receive prizes for logging their reading, and they can participate in summer reading events at the library.

Beyond providing summer-reading programs, the library finds ways to connect with people speaking languages besides English.

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Kara Logsden, the library community and access coordinator, said providing language services helps people feel welcome.

“Everybody in our community is welcome at the library. We want to make sure that people feel welcome at the library,” she said. “We know there are a lot of people in the community that English isn’t their first language, so it’s something that’s very welcoming if they can find out information about their library in their primary language. We’ve tried to make information available about how to get a library card and basic library services in multiple languages.”

Library outreach assistant Heidi Kuchta said the library is expanding services to the Church of the Nazarene, which provides resources for underserved communities.

“Because they have services for people who speak a foreign language who are refugees or becoming citizens, they have a bunch of people who use their services who speak languages other than English,” she said. “We are trying to develop an outreach project for them, a lot of books for kids and foreign-language books for adults, as well.”

Kutcha said the Public Library hopes to add a more in-depth library at the Church of the Nazarene later to provide help in citizenship-test preparation and other resources.

Pilkington emphasized the importance of encouraging kids to read over the summer.

“We want to encourage every child in our community to continue to read,” she said.