Magazine article Texas Library Journal

Lady Liberty at the Library

Magazine article Texas Library Journal

Lady Liberty at the Library

Article excerpt

Across the country, librarians are assisting users in various ways as they pursue United States citizenship, thanks in part to materials from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services' Citizenship Corners initiative. As needs grow, especially within the Lone Star State, librarians should consider building on current offerings and acquire a special credential that allows them to provide immigration legal services.

The Department of Justice Recognition and Accreditation program (DOJ R&A) permits charitable agencies - including libraries - to have non-attorney staff members represent clients before the Department of Homeland Security and immigration courts.

Addison Public Library, located just outside of Chicago, recently took advantage of this growing movement towards leveraging the librarian's role as information gateway. It achieved DOJ recognition earlier this year and Kelly Von Zee, head of community engagement, is one of three staff members with accreditation.

"In my mind, this is a part of traditional librarianship," said Von Zee. "Librarians have always been information professionals and that is something that we've done very well for hundreds of years. This is information people need."

She went on to elaborate on how communities benefit from having access to trained legal professionals, especially considering immigration issues are often difficult for the average person to grasp. For example, libraries are perfectly positioned to fight misinformation about immigration enforcement or paths to legal status, and to prevent dishonest individuals from taking advantage of vulnerable people.

"This is something I see as belonging in every public library that has any significant immigration [population]," said Von Zee. "Just being able to go through this process [of obtaining the proper credential] increases the level of expertise that we have in this area and helps us walk people through immigration forms and just understand basic immigration information."

Addison Public Library's leadership first learned about DOJ R&A through Terra Dankowski's article "Librarians as Immigration Lawyers," published in American Libraries in September 2015. Von Zee further researched the process using the Catholic Legal Immigration Network's DOJ Recognition and Accreditation Toolkit, which is available online at cliniclegal. …

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