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Every branch of Queens Public Library (QPL) offers live over-the-phone interpreting services in more than 240 languages. This ensures greater access to its collections, programs, and services in one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse areas in the country.

According to the 2020 Census, half of the population of Queens was born outside of the U.S. and more than 28 percent of the borough’s population have limited English proficiency. Those residents often need additional assistance the most, as they try to build a new life in the U.S. while navigating the complex systems of housing, education, healthcare, employment, and more.

At each QPL location, a reference or circulation desk is now equipped with a phone that has two handsets. After identifying their language from a chart, customers, at no cost, can have a three-way communication with a library staff and an interpreter.

In the four months since Queens Public Library first began working with LanguageLine®, QPL librarians at numerous locations across the borough, from Central and Flushing to Poppenhusen, Queensboro Hill, and South Ozone Park, were able to assist customers speaking Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, French, Arabic, Pashto, Russian and Urdu, among other languages.

“We Speak Your Language”

“Offering live, on-demand interpretation services by phone in one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the world builds on our longstanding commitment to serve all New Yorkers, whatever languages they speak,” said Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott. “Our goal is to ensure that every person coming through our doors receives the assistance they need to be successful in their lives, and the introduction of LanguageLine, with interpretation in more than 240 languages, removes a significant barrier.”

A Promise Fulfilled

In 2019, when Queens Public Library launched its “Renewed Promise to the Public,” a long-term initiative to honor and serve the diversity of its customers and communities. The library also adopted a new tagline – “We Speak Your Language.” 

In 2020, the library had been planning to introduce access to LanguageLine’s live interpretation, but the pandemic put a two-year pause on the rollout.

Currently, the service is available for in-person interactions, but the library is planning to expand it in the future to include phone inquiries as well.

“Residents of Queens speak over 190 languages and with the introduction of LanguageLine at all of our locations, our customers can now receive assistance in their preferred language with just a phone call from a staff member to a live interpreter,” said Fred Gitner, Assistant Director of New Initiatives & Partnership Liaison at the QPL’s New Americans Program, which coordinates the Library’s many multilingual programs and immigrant services. “Now, we can truly say that at Queens Public Library, we speak your language.”

LanguageLine Can Help

LanguageLine is proud to work with library systems and schools across the country to expand access for all. We invite you to contact us so that we can learn more about the linguistic and cultural challenges that lie within your organization.


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