Matt Poland

Matt Poland is the chief executive officer of the Library and a social media geek.

If there was a central theme to Thursday morning’s public workshop on improving access for immigrant families and children, it was “get smart, know your rights.” The September 17 event, planned to coincide with National Welcoming America week, was co-sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection and Hartford Public Library’s, The American Place. A panel of experts spoke on topics ranging from consumer protection, housing, employment, driver’s licenses, healthcare, legal issues, and ethnic media, with time at the end for questions from the audience.

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Audience members

Commissioner of Consumer Protection, Jonathan Harris, welcomed the panelists and more than 50 participants, praising the contributions immigrants make every day to the state’s economy and culture. “We need to say, ‘Hello’ and not, ‘Hell No!,’ to our immigrant community,” Harris affirmed.

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Commissioner Jonathan Harris making opening remarks

As the panelists were soon to explain, however, immigrants are all too often fed misinformation and fall victim to fraud and scams. Nicole Ayola, attorney at the Department of Consumer Protection, opened by talking about “notario” fraud, whereby immigrants are duped into believing that “notarios” are legally-sanctioned attorneys qualified to help them obtain citizenship, when in fact they are fraudulent imposters. Worse than the hundreds of dollars the victim loses to the scammer is the fact that the fraudulent application could jeopardize future chances for citizenship. And yet, many victims are afraid to notify the authorities. Ayola implored the audience to help out by informing the department of any scam attempts.

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Left to right, Marlene Rubin, Cesar Aleman, and Nicole Ayola

Cesar Aleman, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, discussed his organization’s efforts to protect people from discrimination in housing matters. He also mentioned a new “Move-in” guide, available in translation, that provides, among other things, information on how to qualify for various programs, tips for choosing the right place to live, and a list of important resources.

Marlene Rubin, Social Security Administration Officer, summarized benefits and employment eligibility requirements for legal immigrants, refugees, and students. As the regulations can be complicated and vary depending on visa status, Rubin welcomed people to contact her office for further support and clarification.

Amish Patel, Department of Motor Vehicles, summarized the various licenses available to Connecticut residents, focusing primarily on requirements for immigrants. In January 2015, Connecticut became one of ten states nationally to launch a new “drive only” license for undocumented immigrants. The response has been overwhelming. Over 60,000 undocumented drivers have signed up to take the written permit and road tests, many waiting more than one
year for their appointments. The permit test is available in translation in a handful of languages.

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Left to right, Emanuela Leaf, Michael Bonsignore, Sean King, Amish Patel, and Marlene Rubin.

Sean King, attorney at the Office of the Healthcare Advocate, described the office’s mission to improve health care access for everyone. The policies are extremely complicated, with coverage and eligibility depending on visa status, “lawfully” present status, and other criteria. King, too, encouraged people to email or call the office for support and clarification at healthcareadvocate@ct.gov or 866-466-4466.

Attorney Michael Bonsignore spoke about his work in immigrant and refugee law, touching on the seven main eligibility requirements for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, including age and date of arrival in the U.S., length of continuous residence in the U.S., enrollment in U.S. schools, and check of criminal record. To avoid any complications, Bonsignore emphasized the importance of being well informed and working with an expert when filling out and filing applications. Erika Taylor, Community Relations Officer for USCIS, reminded participants that citizens and immigrants are always welcome to visit the USCIS information room to get answers to all immigration-related questions from a live officer.

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Left to right standing, Catherine Blinder and Erika Taylor

The panel concluded with remarks from journalist Emanuela Leaf, editor of the tri-lingual ethnic paper, Tribuna. Leaf addressed the importance of understanding cultural context, explaining that all immigrants arrived with their own histories and experiences. “We have to meet people where they are, understand their baggage,” she said. The paper is published in Spanish, Portuguese, and English to ensure that everyone will receive the same information at the same time. Additionally, by publishing in an immigrant’s native tongue, the paper is showing that “someone cares.” Leaf sees “ethnic media as playing a vital role in educating immigrants about what they need to know.”

During Q&A, when asked to identify challenges in communications with immigrants, panelists cited building trusting relationships, improving translation capacity, raising literacy levels, erasing misconceptions about and distrust of government offices, and removing fear of deportation. Education is an important first step. As Catherine Blinder, Chief of Education Outreach for the Department of Consumer Protection, pointed out, it is important to “know your rights, so you are empowered to complain.” Following the conclusion of the session, audience members were invited to engage in casual conversation with the panelists.

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One-on-one with the panelists

 

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One-on-one with the panelists

 

 

ARTWALK logo

 

ArtWalk at Hartford Public Library offers one of the largest and most stunning exhibition spaces in metropolitan Hartford and the opportunity for Hartford residents and others to view art in a magnificent setting in our city. Exhibitions on the ArtWalk offer an array of art experiences that reflect a variety of media, styles, and cultures in the art world, provide diverse viewing experiences, and allow for many tastes.

Situated on the third floor of the Downtown Library in a space that looks down onto historic Main Street, the gallery offers unique visibility and exposure, adding to the increasing vibrancy of Downtown Hartford. The ArtWalk hanging system’s movable hanging panels allow maximum flexibility for each show.

The stunning state-of-the art gallery was made possible through the generosity of donors, especially the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation at Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

Seeks Submissions:

The ArtWalk puts on four exhibitions each year, and every year, between August 1 and October 1, artists in all media are invited to submit a body of work. From these submissions, the four shows for the following calendar year are chosen.

Eligibility:

Artists living and/or working in the MetroHartford area will be given priority. Students, emerging, or established artists are all eligible. Artists must have a body of work sufficient for exhibition on the ArtWalk by the date of the exhibition.

Jury:

A jury will select up to four artists with final approval from the Library. Criteria for selection include but are not limited to: an artist’s resume or vitae and demonstrated ability, an appropriate body of work that is compatible with the ArtWalk space, and the ability to provide sufficient work ready for installation by an agreed-upon date. Installations designed specifically for ArtWalk are encouraged.

The jury will also consider the economic and physical feasibility of the proposed exhibition.

The jury may also recommend group exhibitions.

Selected Artists:

The selected artist(s) will generally receive a solo exhibition (although the library reserves the right to create exhibitions for multiple artists simultaneously); supporting marketing; an opening night reception; and, an opportunity to present an artist’s talk to the public during the exhibition.

Submissions:

  1. Documentation of Work – up to six images of recent, current work, or the work specifically being proposed for the exhibition on the ArtWalk on clearly labeled CD-ROM/jpegs only; virus-free USB sticks may also be submitted. (Slides, original artwork and photographs of work cannot be accepted and will not be considered.)
  2. Include title, dimensions and medium of each submitted image.
  3. Up to three minutes of new media work will be viewed by jurors (clearly mark and cue the segment to be viewed)
  4. A current resume with contact information including address, phone, and e-mail
  5. A brief artist’s statement
  6. Description and scope of proposed exhibition.(Every effort will be made to return submissions. Please include with your application a self- addressed stamped envelope sufficient to return material, otherwise submissions will not be returned.)

Deadline:

Materials must be postmarked no later than October 1, 2015 and sent to:

Sarah Pelletier

Programming and Events Manager
Hartford Public Library
500 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103

Artist(s) selected by the jury will be notified by phone and e-mail no later than October 31, 2015.

Good luck!

Jennifer Kriksciun

In less than an hour, the quiet stillness of Hartford Public Library fills with local Karen, preparing for the New Year celebration later that morning.  Girls draped in colorful woven skirts and scarves shuffle quickly in and out of the women’s room in groups to check their outfits and talk.  In the venue, the Center for Contemporary Culture a group of Karen young men practice, dressed in traditional native Karen clothing.  One plays the electric guitar while another plays a modern drum kit. The music they play sounds more like modern rock music and I nod my head in both surprise and appreciation.
When I look around, the room itself has been transformed overnight and now, along the front of the room hangs a massive banner announcing this year’s Karen New Year celebration. It is multi-colored and impressive, taking up the whole length of the wall, with large letters cut out, spelling out the celebration in two languages. The room gradually gets busier and busier.
Members of the Karen community come in carrying large containers of rice, soup, and other traditional foods.  Soon the air fills with the smells of foods that seem oddly familiar to me yet a little exotic.  One after another, like an organized assembly line, the food is set up in a buffet-style fashion in the American Place.  I peek at the foods, mostly shades of green and browns- and it’s hard to figure out what the food is and as a vegetarian, I feel wary to try them. There is no one around tell me the ingredients so I stay safe with sweet brown rice wrapped in banana leaves.
It is here that I spy Shinning.  Sitting quietly to the left of the eating area on a library stool, she reads a picture book.  It seems as if the library shelves are swallowing her, I think. I ask if I can take her picture and Shinning (pronounced “shining”, this could not be a mistake!) looks up from her book, smiles shyly at first, then broadly, and nods yes. I ask her to keep reading, explaining that I want to capture her reading, maybe for the website, I say. I snap away for several minutes, taking pictures of this little girl from various angles as she continues to read the book I will later find out is about colonists coming to settle in America. These are the kinds of books you find in this part of the library. She doesn’t quite understand this so I explain what the American Place space is all about, what people use the space for, and why these books are here. I think she gets it but I don’t know if she’s learned about the colonists in school, so she doesn’t exactly see the connection with colonists and being American. I guess we’ll save that lesson for another day.
Shinning is seven years old. She is, as most of the people visiting the library here on this New Year’s Day celebration, a Karen refugee. She came to the United States when she was just a year old with two older brothers, her mother, grandmother, and some other family members. You can see that she has benefited from her American education.  I ask her about school and she beams proudly that she loves school, especially math. “I want to be a doctor,” she says confidently and I can’t help but believe this will become true.
Later, we walk around together and she tells me how she her mother and grandmother don’t speak English at all and she often has to speak for them. I nod that I understand and ask how she feels about that; she replies that she does her best. It’s all that she knows so there is nothing to think about. It’s then that we are interrupted with the beginning of the celebration. At the entryway to the Center, I see a group of young Karen holding flags, waiting to walk proudly in a flag procession. I try to shuffle Shinning towards the Center but she doesn’t want to go.  Why? I ask her.  She wants to go read her book.
I leave her as I inside to watch the Karen celebrate the first day of their New Year, beginning with a blessing from a local Karen minister and the singing of the Karen flag song.  As I watch the traditional dances, the reenactments of various rituals, I keep thinking about Shinning who is so happy to be taking advantage of a little quiet time to read. I sneak out a few times and every time I walk by her, she has her head in a book. She seems unfazed by the celebration going on around her, and though I’m thrilled to see a budding book worm, in this great library nonetheless, I wonder if I should I feel sadness that she’s rejecting an important cultural celebration. Later, when I leave the event, I say good bye to her and remind her to come visit the library as often as she can. I tell her I am so happy to have met her and that I hope she continues to love school and math and she smiles at me. Her mom and grandmother are at her side and I say thank you to them and smile, wondering if they see the same little girl I have just met.

 

In celebration of National Adoption month, USCIS held a special adoption ceremony at the State Capitol on November 18th to honor the citizenship of 14 adopted children from Connecticut. The children, aged 2 to 12, come from countries as far away as China, Brazil, Haiti, India, Ghana and Russia. Guests were are entertained before the ceremony by a delightful clown, Valentine, who blew balloon animals for everyone. Even Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman joined in on the fun, playing limbo with a balloon stick and later, donning colorful patriotic balloon butterfly wings. She later congratulated the small crowd, telling the new young citizens, “You’re going to make this place the best place to live.” After hearing a stunning rendition of The National Anthem, U.S. Magistrate Donna Martinez, a mother of an adopted child (now grown) from Colombia, told her own story of her adoption journey. Today we celebrate another step in their journey. She commented that people often think that it is the children that are the lucky ones because they have been chosen, and though this is true she applauded the parents, reminded them that they  too “are the lucky ones.”

Full disclosure. I’m an adopted child. I came to this country from Taiwan when I was only a month old. I became a citizen when Jimmy Carter was President of the United States. I remember my parents brought me to a court house in Washington D.C. (we lived in Virginia at the time.) I remember the room filled with many people. My parents allowed me to stand on the chair, when the Pledge of Allegiance was said. I knew the Pledge because we said it in school. After that, I was told I was citizen, but I didn’t know what that meant. I told the story to a few children I saw at the ceremony. I told them how lucky they were, and I congratulated the parents. It is always rewarding to see Naturalization ceremonies, but to see a ceremony for adopted children is particularly special and meaningful for me. Not only do these special children continue the diversity that makes up the fabric of this nation, they validate reasons for which we decide to come to this country- for freedom, hope, and opportunity. Where would I be if I had not been adopted? Where would these little children be? Still in the orphanages for which they had been found? Celebrate National Adoption month and honor all the mothers and fathers for their strength and courage to follow their hearts and bring another child into their lives.

In celebration of National Adoption month, USCIS held a special adoption ceremony at the State Capitol on November 18th to celebrate the citizenship of 14 adopted children from Connecticut. The children, aged 2 to 12, come from countries as far away as China, Brazil, Haiti, India, Ghana and Russia. Guests were are entertained before the ceremony by a delightful clown, Valentine, who blew balloon animals for everyone. Even Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman joined in on the fun, playing limbo with a balloon stick and later, donning colorful patriotic balloon butterfly wings. She later congratulated the small crowd, telling the new young citizens, “You’re going to make this place the best place to live.” Afterwards, U.S. Magistrate Donna Martinez, a mother of an adopted child (now grown) from Colombia, told her own story of her adoption journey. Today we celebrate another step in their journey. She commented that people often think that it is the children that are the lucky ones because they have been chosen, and though this is true she applauded the parents, reminded them that they  too “are the lucky ones.”

Full disclosure. I’m an adopted child. I came to this country from Taiwan when I was only a month old. I became a citizen when Jimmy Carter was President of the United States. I remember my parents brought me to a court house in Washington D.C. (we lived in Virginia at the time.) I remember the room filled with many people. My parents allowed me to stand on the chair, when the Pledge of Allegiance was said. I knew the Pledge because we said it in school. After that, I was told I was citizen, but I didn’t know what that meant. I told the story to a few children I saw at the ceremony. I told them how lucky they were, and I congratulated the parents. It is always rewarding to see Naturalization ceremonies, but to see a ceremony for adopted children is particularly special and meaningful for me. Not only do these special children continue the diversity that makes up the fabric of this nation, they validate reasons for which we decide to come to this country- for freedom, hope, and opportunity. Where would I be if I had not been adopted? Where would these little children be? Still in the orphanages for which they had been found? Celebrate National Adoption month and honor all the mothers and fathers for their strength and courage to follow their hearts and bring another child into their lives.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in Washington, DC, announced that we have been awarded a National Leadership Grant (planning category) in the amount of $47,540.  This is the third grant that we have received from IMLS since 2010.

The Summer Learning! Family Engagement Continuum is a year-long program that educates parents/caregivers of children grades K-3 on the importance of summer learning, and that offers exposure to new resources, programs, and activities designed to improve reading proficiency.   The planning grant will gather a creative team of educational and cultural professionals to develop a unique process to get parents, caregivers and kids excited about year-long learning.

The grant will create an innovative program for family engagement in summer learning, building a model for cities with similar cultural diversity, significant poverty levels, and low literacy in adults and children. It will have considerable impact on the best practices of other organizations and the public good.

Summer Learning!  Family Engagement Continuum will address summer learning loss with a systematic, continuous, comprehensive, and collaborative approach to increasing summer learning opportunities.  The planning team will serve as a think tank of creative educational and cultural leaders with a wide variety of experience. “We appreciate the confidence that IMLS has in us to make a difference in our City.  This project will result in a cohesive approach to find solutions that will help our most vulnerable children thrive as adults”, said Matthew K. Poland HPL’s Chief Executive Officer.

We will partner with Hartford Public Schools, and will work creatively and collaboratively with a wide array of Hartford organizations, including the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s Brighter Futures Initiative, and the Hartford Department of Families, Children, Youth and Recreation.

We are thrilled to announce that HPL has received recognition and accreditation from the United States Department of Justice Bureau of Immigrant Appeals (BIA) which will enable it to expand immigrants’ access to critical information and services in their path  to Citizenship.  We are the first public library in the nation to receive this accreditation.

The Library’s The American Place (TAP) program has been in the forefront of welcoming new arrivals and facilitating their integration into the broader community since 2000 and is recognized nationally as a best practice. Although the program offers a comprehensive range of services it refers immigrants to area not-for-profit agencies recognized by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals for legal consultation. Now the Library, a long-standing resource to the immigrant community, is certified to offer these services directly. These expanded services are expected to be offered in January 2014.

An estimated 300 immigrants a month come to the Library to seek online access and assistance navigating the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services’ (USCIS) portal. The Library’s standing in the community as a center for immigrant educational services and computer access, along with its proximity to the USCIS Immigration Services field office (located across the street) are contributing factors to the steady flow of immigrants to the Library.

Looking towards the future and the strong possibility that comprehensive immigration reform will be passed, this demand is expected to increase significantly. “As a trusted source of information, as a center for technology and, a primary portal for immigrants – TAP will be more effective and efficient now that the immigrant needs will be met via a one-stop model”, said Homa Naficy, chief adult learning officer and director of The American Place.

For more information on our immigration and citizenship services, visit our website. And make sure you check out The American Place blog for stories on trips they have taken, and Reflections from a Cultural Navigator!

Press on HPL’s accreditation:

Library Journal – Hartford Public Library Nation’s First to Be Certified by Bureau of Immigrant Appeals
ThinkProgress – Booked For Appointments: First Library Gets Certified To Help Immigrants Navigate The Legal System

 

September 17th is Citizenship Day! We’re celebrating with thirty candidates who will become citizens of the United States in a naturalization ceremony at Hartford City Hall. We’re also celebrating National Welcoming Week (Sept 15-22), a week where we all highlight the contributions made in our communities by immigrants.

All are welcome to attend the ceremony and witness this momentous occasion, from 11:45 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on September 17th in the Atrium of Hartford City Hall, 550 Main Street.

Citizenship Ceremony at HPL, April 2013

Music and remarks will be part of the agenda as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services presents 30 candidates for U.S. citizenship. The Honorable Donna F. Martinez, United States Magistrate Judge, will administer the Oath of Allegiance to America’s newest citizens, who hail from many countries.

HPL CEO Matthew K. Poland will provide the Naturalization Ceremony’s opening remarks, while keynote remarks will be made by the Honorable Pedro Segarra, Mayor of Hartford.

Special elements of the September 17 ceremony also will include a presentation of the nation’s colors by the First Company Governor’s Foot Guard; students of the Library’s citizenship education program leading the Pledge of Allegiance; and performances by Tom Rotchford and The Mariachi Band / Los Tovardores de America.

For further information please contact naficy@hplct.org Phone: 860-695-6334

This summer our ESL/Citizenship classes took another trip, this time to Boston, MA. Here we explored the Freedom Trail, USS Constitution, and Quincy Market. We took a guided walking tour along the Freedom Trail. We saw the Old South Meeting House, Old State House and the site of the Boston Massacre. We also explored the USS Constitution. The USS Constitution is the world’s oldest naval vessel afloat. Students were in awe to see this. For many, it was their first time being on a ship like this. They did not realize these ships still existed. It was truly a new experience for them. At Quincy Market the students were met with the sights, sounds and scents of Boston. Food, shops and street performers were all around. Our students grabbed some food and watched the entertainment of street performers while we waited for our tour to begin. At the very end of our outing mother nature decided it was time for a downpour. Despite the rain, the students had an amazing time, enjoyed every minute and were very grateful.

This August marked this blog’s 1 year anniversary. Hooray! In July there is an ESL/Citizenship class trip to the 9/11 Memorial and the Museum of Native American History. That is where we began last year and where I begin today. As I noted last year, for some students, this was their first time in NYC. The shock and awe at seeing “the Big Apple” in person for the first time is truly a sight to see. Some of our students were repeat visitors from last years trip. For those students, they noticed the changes that had taken place at the memorial over the last year. The Freedom Tower which was still under construction last year was completed this year. It is still not open but the major construction on the exterior of the building is done. They felt more confident when walking throughout the city. It was a bolstering hot July day and this group of 45 people had a great day exploring NYC and learning about the rich history and culture of America.

 

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