Engaging linguistically diverse populations: Gatekeepers in rural and sparsely populated areas of the U.S. Midwest

Denice Adkins, Heather Moulaison Sandy

Abstract


In the Midwestern U.S., there is a growing population of Latin American immigrants. This increase is driven largely by employment opportunities in generally low-skilled, low wage fields such as meat processing and packing, and other agricultural fields. As a result, rural towns with relatively few resources are welcoming a growing number of non-English speaking immigrants who may not have experience with the practices and institutions of the U.S. such as libraries, schools, hospitals, or social support services. The agencies that usually work with linguistically diverse immigrant populations are churches, schools, and university extension departments. Building off previous research, this paper reports on ten interviews with gatekeepers about their work in reaching and engaging with Latin American immigrant populations. Three interrelated themes emerged from the interviews: the importance of language, of providing relevant services, and of cultivating trust. Drawing from the experiences reported by the gatekeepers as well as the literature, the authors discuss implications for small rural libraries that might not be equipped to take over gatekeeping roles, but that want to work with immigrant communities. Ultimately, the authors recommend that rural libraries liaise with established gatekeepers to the greatest extent possible.


Keywords


gatekeepers; immigrants; Latin American immigrants; Midwestern U.S.; rural and sparsely populated areas

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ISSN 2574-3430

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