How the Library Supports the City’s Most Pressing Needs: DPL’s Plaza Program

March 21, 2024

Photo by James Chance

Denver has received almost 40,000 immigrants and refugees over the past year. As the city works to support this population, Denver Public Library (DPL) has programs to provide additional support, including the Plaza program.

Founded in 2008, the program provides immigrants and refugees access to resources for learning a new language, preparing for citizenship exams, finding connections, and pursuing their goals.

With 40 Plaza staff members, nine branch libraries provide this service to library newcomers.

Each location has 1-2 weekly programs where people can drop in for help with various things targeted at newer city residents, including English conversation groups, citizenship study groups, Chromebooks, activities for kids, etc.

Plaza’s Program Manager, Virginia Vassar, states:

“Even if there isn’t a language barrier, there’s cultural barriers. They might not think of the library as something that belongs to them. … We’re creating spaces where that relationship building can happen where [a customer] can see someone even if they walk in the library and the staff doesn’t reflect their community. … Giving people a chance to come into the library and have somebody who speaks their language [helps] the library become a place for [people] to take ownership of that resource and access information.”

Many programs for newcomers have strict eligibility requirements to access them. Plaza has no barriers to access and no eligibility requirements.

The Ross-University Hills Branch Library shared a testimonial from a library staff member:

“I am often called upon to help folx identified as Plaza participants. I was so delighted last week when I realized that the customer WAS a former Plaza participant! It had been more than a year since she had attended. Her goal was to learn enough English to move from the back room of a local department store to a cashier position. After hugging her, that was my first question. YES, she is a cashier now!”

Written by Brittany Javor
Director of Marketing and Communications