Hartford public library

Contributor: April Adams

Nailah and April
For my first assignment as a Cultural Navigator at Hartford Public Library, I was assigned to help Nailah study for her US Citizenship interview and exam. We worked together twice a week in one hour sessions throughout the months of April, May and June.
Nailah is very sweet, very gentle and was initially very shy around me. For the 4-6 weeks her youngest son Syed would hang around our meeting space at the library, but eventually I saw him less and less. I found Syed to be much more accustomed to the American way of life (I never had a doubt he’d ace his interview and exam) and a respectful young man. Very protected of his mother and very obedient. For example, if mom said wear a jacket today it’s cold, you can believe he was wearing a hoodie! He once asked me why I was helping, was it a mandatory assignment of sorts, to which I replied  “No, I am volunteering to help. I’m very blessed and happy to help others.” His 20 year old jaw dropped in disbelief. I sensed from that day forward I had his utmost respect.
Nailah with Nancy Caddigan,
Intercultural Liaison at HPL
I feel blessed to be an United States citizen, to speak a globally recognized language and I know with that comes an innate understanding about American customs. I understand, for the most part, our US customs (I’m from North Carolina and just myself learning the ropes of living in the Northeast). I tease her often that she has five kids (for I have none so I can’t imagine 5!), the courage to move to another country and the guts to learn the language and become an American. The equivalent would be for me to move at my current age to a foreign land and achieve as much in 5 years. I applaud her! Just being around her helps give me perspective for my problems or life challenges seems quite small in comparison.
Nailah recently aced her citizenship interview and exam. She didn’t miss a single question! Even though we’ve accomplished our initial goal, she has asked me to continue helping her with her English. I’m honored to continue working with her. No doubt I’ll walk away from this experience equally as blessed as Nailah. She has touched and enriched my life. Thank you Nailah.

Jennifer Kriksciun
It’s not too often you can tell people your boss is at the White House receiving an honor. Today I could do just that. Homa Naficy, our library’s Chief Adult Education Officer, was recognized along with 12 other librarians from across the nation as a Champion of Change. A Champion of Change. Like a Wheaties box. Like the Queen song. When I heard the news of Homa’s award weeks ago, I was unfamiliar with President Obama’s Champions of Change Program initiative. Nonetheless I knew that this honor signified great change in the role libraries are playing and that Hartford Public Library was leading the way.
If you don’t know who Homa is then just look around the American Place. She’s the reason the American Place is even here. It was her dream to create a place for new arrivals to come to get information about immigration, places to learn English, or how to become a U.S. citizen. Because of Homa’s vision, today the library offers citizenship preparation services, citizenship classes in a variety of languages, ESL classes, and a Cultural Navigator program to mentor new arrivals.  The space probably isn’t as meaningful as the people who have been affected by these programs. They come back and visit often. They bring gifts. They bring smiles. They send their family members and friends to the classes. That’s how we know these programs work.
Today, on a rainy Tuesday morning, Homa traveled down on the fast train to Washington D.C. with Matt Poland (HPL CEO),  Mary Tzambazakis (HPL CFO), and Nancy Caddigan, Intercultural Liaison.  Later that afternoon, there would be a formal panel discussion on immigrant integration and Homa would give a five minute presentation on her initiatives with immigrant civic engagement. On our end, the library was going to broadcast her panel discussion live on the big screen in the atrium.  It was a pretty big deal.
Homa sat first at the table. She looked lovely. Someone remarked that she was glowing. Homa spoke of the need to foster building trusting relationships through mentoring programs like the Cultural Navigator Program and community dialogues. She told a story of a community leader who had remarked that they never saw immigrants at community meetings (even though they knew they lived in the neighborhood), yet after some community dialogues, immigrants were coming together and getting involved. I’ve seen this happen, so I could feel Homa’s pride.

Later, during the question and answer session, the panel was touting the benefits of technology. Earlier, people had talked about using Nintendo Wiis and iPads and no one needs to convince me of their worth, believe me. But when Homa talked about the value of the human touch. The American Place provides the human touch. Patrons come with all sorts of questions and needs, from the merely confused (and confusing!) to the serious and, sometimes, even the desperate. We give them whatever time and help we can. That’s part of the human touch. But the most important part is what they give us in return …..

Getting to Zero

Jasmine Cardi

On Friday the Hartford Public Library had its first Staff Development Day. All of the libraries in Hartford were closed and all the staff met at the main branch. Our morning started off very intensely with Andy Stefanovich. Simply put he is a motivational speaker who has worked with many of the top leading companies in the world to inspire them to think creatively. Andy Stefanovich is Chief Curator and Provocateur at Prophet, a strategic brand and marketing consultancy. In 2 hours he shared a great deal of information with us. Two of the things that struck me the most were about passion and relaxing. If we really think about it we spend most of our time at work. If we can think of something we are passionate about and dissect it to find what are the qualities of our passion then we can apply that to our work environment.(Passion in action) For me I love helping people. Each day I get a chance to help many people that walk into the library. The idea of knowing what characteristics make up your passion and being able to find it in other things is great. It makes me think about things in a different perspective. (Which Andy also spoke about in great detail) The second thing that struck me was getting to zero. Getting to zero refers to getting to your relaxing point. I am not referring to getting a massage relaxed. I mean, that is great but is not likely to happen on a daily basis. What I think Andy meant was doing something that helps you release the stress of the day and have a little “you” time to regroup or just clear your mind. Helping people takes a lot of energy. Regardless of the weather, how you are feeling or other stress factors you have a task to perform once those doors open. You are ON and the show must go on. Without getting to zero sharing your passion, or enjoying your passion, might become difficult. For me, getting to zero sometimes includes a trip to First & Last Bakery before I start my day. I sit alone and enjoy a quiet breakfast and a hot cup of coffee. These 30 minutes before I start work are very important to me. It allows me to clear my mind and prepare for the day ahead. What Andy shared with us seemed like basic things that many take for granted. It was nice to be reminded how these small things we can easily take for granted can make or break our day. We do not need to sacrifice our passion or ourselves for our job. The idea is if you find your passion within your job it will not only benefit you but also the people you encounter as well. I encourage you to read Andy’s book Look at More. I know I will be reading it. I also will not forget the 2 back-to-basic principles I’d like to explore and expand on: passion in action and getting to zero. This was an experience I’m sure never to forget and am grateful to have been apart of.

ESOL Class
Jasmine Cardi

Today I was thinking about technology. It is something that dominates most of our lives these days. Phones, computers, ereaders, game consoles-the list is endless. What is most interesting that our time is spent playing virtual farm games with someone on the other side of the world, reading about the lives of others on facebook and checking our email. I am starting to wonder if the art of communication will someday be primarily virtual. How many times are you somewhere with other people and not even a Hello is exchanged and everyone is on their various devices? During the last portion of todays ESOL class the students were using our computers to work on their reading. It was refreshing to speak with these students and show them how to use the computer. In such a technological age they are still not dependent on technology. The art of communication is still visible even though not all of the students can speak English well and all are from different countries.