Aldona Salska hopes the Rotary International cookbook has a good pierogi recipe!  
 
We had an intimate group at today's meeting, so our speaker gave her talk from her seat at the lunch table!
 
Aldona Salska is the World Languages Librarian at the Prospect Heights Public Library District.  Her main responsibility is to ensure the large and diverse immigrant communities served by the Library know about and have access to library services.  Close to 50% of Prospect Heights' population speak English as a second language.  They are often unaware of what American public libraries provide - story times for their children; job training and educational assistance for themselves; etc.  
 
As a native of Poland and immigrant herself, Aldona understands the challenges these families face.  She came to the US after winning the 'green card lottery' and arrived in Chicago without knowing a word of English.  But she overcame that huge obstacle to earn two masters degrees, including one in library science.  
 
Aldona has developed popular collections of books, movies and periodicals in Korean, Spanish, Polish and Russian.  She works with local churches and booksellers to learn what titles will be most appreciated.  Instead of simply purchasing translations of American authors, she works to offer the best selling novels from those countries themselves.  
 
She's also established services to help patrons improve their English as well as earn their citizenship.  Through the Library's Let's Talk! tutoring program, patrons wishing to improve their English are paired with a volunteer for weekly conversations.  These conversations vary in content and scope.  Some pairs reviews the local paper or popular magazines, other pairs talk about what's been on television, others do still different things.  These sessions aren't for credit, and there is no homework, but the patrons quickly become more comfortable speaking English and understanding the everyday idioms native speakers use.  
 
Earning American citizenship is a daunting prospect.  Fortunately, the federal government has a wide range of resources designed to help with the process.  More importantly, those resources are often published in many different languages.  Aldona has created a Citizenship Center so library patrons can have easy access to this information.  Library staff has received many heartfelt thanks from people who have become citizens using library services.  
 
Immigrant communities can often be overlooked by library staffs who may not speak any languages other than English.  The Prospect Heights Library is fortunate to have Aldona on staff to make sure our community is not.  
 

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