As part of Love Your Library month, we’re highlighting some of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s most-loved programs and services here on Eleventh Stack. If you’ve ever taken a look at the extensive list of language classes offered by CLP and wondered how we manage to offer everything from Arabic to Spanish, you’re in luck — today’s post is all about taking you behind the scenes and into the world of the library’s amazing language volunteers!
As with many parts of the library, language classes are a success because of the library patrons who organize, volunteer and attend them. In 2016, at the Main Library alone, language volunteers contributed 1,594 hours of service.
Several of our exceptional language volunteers answered a few questions about their experience. They are Dutian Zeng, who organizes and teaches Chinese at CLP – Main; Tina Jerzyk, who facilitates Let’s Speak English at CLP – Squirrel Hill; and Maria Dianifaba who facilitates Russian classes at CLP – Main.
What is the best part of volunteering to teach language classes at the library?
Dutian: “Your students are not only your students, they are your friends and sometimes teachers. You teach them and they give back their sincere trust and friendship. And meanwhile you get to know more Chinese friends which also developed into part of your life. You just can’t find a reason not to keep volunteering and enjoying every moment that you are in the Library.”
Maria: “Volunteering gives me a sense of belonging. I have only moved to Pittsburgh three years ago, and I was looking for the opportunities to share my Russian culture with the local community. Turned out, there is a lot of interest in Russian in Pittsburgh! I was pleased to know that people want to learn more about my country and want to learn the language.”
Tina: “The best part is hearing stories from people from around the world. Hearing their perspectives opens my mind, and there is always a good laugh in every session. I also love seeing the participants make friends with each other. It’s great!”
What makes the library a good place to learn?
Dutian: “The beautiful and inclusive (learning) environment full of love. Everyone feels welcome.”
Maria: “Carnegie Library is just a beautiful place to be in! From the first time I visited, I wanted to come more. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the rooms are inviting, the visitors are diverse and striving for knowledge. The entire place feels like a great learning community.”
Tina: “In addition to Let’s Speak English, the library offers nearly everything a newcomer to Pittsburgh needs to build their life here. And, if the library doesn’t directly offer a service, the librarians are able to at least tell the newcomer who to contact instead.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience volunteering at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh?
Dutian: “As a foreign student living here, my life and memory in Pittsburgh start from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Half of my current friends I made are from here and I make new ones every year because I volunteer at the Library. Thank you! I love our Library!”
Maria: “I am just grateful to be a part of the volunteer team. I am glad that such opportunities exist in Pittsburgh. If you just moved here and don’t know anyone, Carnegie Library can be your close friend.”
Tina: “It has been amazing seeing so many people from dozens of countries come through the program in the past five years. I don’t think others in Pittsburgh realize how large and varied our immigrant community is. We get participants who are in town for a few weeks visiting family and parents who have moved their families to Pittsburgh permanently to get care for a disabled child. It is great to see all of them make friends, get more comfortable speaking and celebrate life milestones like new jobs and new babies. Every now and then, I run into a program alumnus around town, and it makes me happy to that they have found their place here.”