information and migrant populations

Cat looking out an open window
From Home and garden : notes and thoughts, practical and critical, of a worker in both / by Gertrude Jekyll (1900)

41st chat, September 8 2015: information and migrant populations

Moderated by @bembrarian
Storify (pdf, html) by @violetbfox

Topic: As a librarian with professional experience in Philadelphia and Seattle, I have encountered and worked with many migrant and immigrant populations from all over the world. I recently have been working as a librarian and information management specialist in Cambodia, where the idea of migratory patterns and movements between rural areas and cities is an ever-growing trend. Today we will talk about the role of the library in a place/community, and its impact on migrant populations. While we explore these ideas, keep an open mind about what “migration” means. This topic is not solely regarding migrant workers. From children of military to refugees to rural migrant workers to city transplants, individuals who encounter physical movement from one place to another will also encounter disruptions in their ability to retrieve information and solve everyday problems. What lessons might we learn from each other regarding the texture of the population where we serve? How does the ubiquity of the Internet and the assumption of the ubiquity of the Internet impact our assumptions about populations where we serve?

Suggested readings:

  • Wikipedia page on “Human Migration” ( For general definitions, an overview of human migration theory, and some great reasons why people move from one place to another, read this page. I particularly like Lee’s laws, which include push and pull factors (Everett S. Lee (1966). “A Theory of Migration”).
  • Southeast Asian Globe: “Power to the People?” ( For perspective on the country I am currently living and working in, check out this article. Many individuals have been moving to the Phnom Penh from rural/provincial agriculture positions over the past decade and that drastically affects class structure.

Discussion questions:

  • Q1. What migrant populations do you serve at your library? Does your library observe migration and how?
  • Q2. What are key components that define “place” and “community,” and how can libraries/librarians embody those core qualities?
  • Q3. How can the library provide culture support to migrant populations during crises in information seeking?
  • Q4. How can libraries become more welcoming in general to new individuals and populations in the community?
  • Q5. For groups and individuals who will leave the community for elsewhere, what support can the library provide?

Additional reading:

  • Another very telling article on Phnom Penh’s developments and urban migrations:
  • Seattle Public Library: “Literacy, ESL and Citizenship” ( Here is one example of a public library’s initiatives to support new members to a community. As you review, note the tension between broad support and a degree of intimacy with the community.
  • UN: “Migration Should Be ‘a Journey of Hope, Not a Perilous Gamble’, Secretary-General Tells Stockholm Forum, Urging Fresh Ideas, Innovative Partnerships” ( A rather inspiring document questioning policy and institutional best practices regarding migrant populations. Additional UN migration documents can be found here:

Resources from chat participants: