Learning English as a second language

A large part of the role for a public library is to promote literacy in the community, to target those who lack the skills to access the knowledge and information they need to become active participants in community life. Providing free access to information, public libraries are an important foundation of democracy; bringing all members of the community together as equals, celebrating our heritage and welcoming new arrivals. It is essential for a healthy community that everyone has the skills and opportunities to access health information. With this in mind, public libraries play a valuable role in supporting non-English speaking members of the community and those for who English is a second language to develop their English language skills.

According to the 2011 Profile ID, Community Profile,  6% of people in Coffs Harbour came from countries where English was not their first language. This was an increase of over 32% from the previous census in 2006, and matched the number of people who spoke a language other than English at home. In addition, 655 people who were able to speak another language reported difficulty speaking English. Between 2006 and 2011 the largest increases in the languages spoken by the population in Coffs Harbour City were for those speaking Punjabi, Burmese, Mandarin, and Dinka.

An English Workshop Collection was established in 2005. Prior to this the library held a number of resources to support adult literacy and those learning English as a second language however they were integrated into the general collection. The English Workshop collection now has over 300 titles. These resources have been selected to help people improve their English language skills with a range of titles including Book/CD kits to allow people to follow the text as they listen to a story, short stories in large print for adults, and targeted material designed to help people prepare for their International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exams.

In 2012 the library received a grant to purchase online language and literacy resources to supplement the English Workshop collection. A selection of resources was chosen to support those learning English as a second language, English speakers learning foreign languages and early literacy resources for children. The library works in conjunction with the local TAFE and a number of refugee settlement services to educate staff and clients of these services in the availability and use of these resources.

The library also provides access to community language resources from State Library of NSW for identified language groups within the community including Arabic, Burmese, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Panjabi, Persian, Spanish and Vietnamese. These items are on loan from the State Library of New South Wales’ Multicultural Services and are regularly updated.

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