News & Blog: Learner Stories


Written by Chad Patton, Customized Workplace English Director

For Olivia, Kent District Library (KDL) was a place to check out books and movies and use the computer. But, for Olivia, the library also represented a future career.

“I like the idea to be able to work in the library,” Olivia said.

Olivia, a Mexican woman who moved to the United States 19 years ago, was already familiar with both KDL and the Literacy Center. Olivia’s familiarity with KDL was as a library patron, and her familiarity with the Literacy Center of West Michigan was as a part-time employee providing childcare to parents attending classes through our Family Literacy Program.

wyomingKnowing that Olivia was looking for new opportunities, Johana Rodriguez Quist, Director of the Family Literacy Program, informed Olivia about a partnership between Kent District Library and Literacy Center of West Michigan. This opportunity invited multilingual community members into a program that trained them in English that was specific to becoming a shelver at KDL – a shelver being the person who makes it easy for patrons to locate specific books around the library. While the program didn't guarantee employment, it provided Olivia with the training she needed to become a qualified candidate for such a position in the future.

 “I was very interested,” Olivia said, “With them training directly, I would have more opportunities for the job.”

Two days per week, Olivia’s class of 10 learns the language and competencies that are specific to their success as future assorted books on shelfshelvers. “We are learning the vocabulary that is specific to the job we would be doing,” Olivia said. “The school is more demanding, but it is more personal and focuses on vocabulary and other issues.”

Because the Literacy Center focuses on building a strong classroom community, learners find it easier to rely on each other during the demanding times. From Olivia’s point of view, this is also something she has seen at KDL: “[It’s a] very nice environment, a very clean, inviting place to work… I am able to ask for support.”

KDL's Director of Human Resources, Brian Mortimore shared, "Working with the Literacy Center on this initiative has been exceptional. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Olivia and her classmates. What makes this program so exciting and unique is that it teaches English skills from a highly practical perspective. We're hoping that many of the participants will be inspired to take that next step and apply for a job with KDL in the future."

While the class has been temporarily suspended due to COVID-19, Olivia still remains hopeful. As soon as the library opens again, Olivia will be back in class working toward achieving her dream of working for KDL.

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