Immigrants’ Use of New American and Adult Learner Programs in Queens, NY (2000 - 2003)

Immigrants have substantial informational and practical needs for help with adjusting to life in a new country. Due to differences in language, culture, and other factors such as access, however, new immigrants are a difficult population to study. As a result, little research has examined their predilections from an information behavior perspective.

We report findings from an exploratory qualitative study of how literacy and coping skills programs are used by and benefit the immigrant customers of the Queens Borough Public Library (QBPL) in New York City. Using an outcome evaluation approach enriched by its focus on context and Karen Fisher’s (writing as Pettigrew, 1999) information ground theory, our case study involved in-depth interviews and observation with 45 program users, staff and other stakeholders. Via our analysis we derived a grand context (in Pettigrew’s terms) woven from three sub-contexts: the immigrants of Queens, N.Y.; the QBPL, its service model and activities for immigrants; and professional contributions of QBPL staff.