May 11, 2018

Eva B. Raison | Movers & Shakers 2018 – Advocates

Eva B. Raison

CURRENT POSITION

Interim Director of Outreach Services / Immigrant Services Coordinator, Brooklyn Public Library

DEGREE

MA, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, New York University, 2007

FOLLOW

@Bklyn_Immigrant on Twitter; Brooklyn Public Library; Brooklyn Public Library Outreach; Eva on LinkedIn

Photo by Gregg Richards

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Opening Doors

“The longer I work in libraries, the more I see how our mission and core principles are tied to supporting a more just and equitable society,” says Eva B. Raison. This philosophy drives her work at the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), which serves a population that speaks more than 90 different languages and hails from 180 countries, to be as inclusive and proactive as possible.

In 2015, “she partnered with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services and the New York City Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) to provide prominently displayed multilingual immigration and citizenship materials in all 60 branches of our system,” says nominator Nicholas Higgins (BPL chief librarian and a 2017 Mover & Shaker), making BPL the fourth library in the country to offer these citizenship corners. Raison received additional funding for citizenship classes aimed at English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). Eleven-week program cycles prepare attendees for the citizenship interview and English and civics tests.

“All of these programs and services had not existed in our library before [Raison’s arrival],” says Higgins. “We’ve been able to serve 566 individuals in formal classes and an additional 1,272 people in informal study groups.”

Access to “free, trustworthy, culturally and linguistically appropriate legal services” felt like a necessary next step to Raison. She approached Immigration Justice Corps (IJC) with a proposal to bring legal assistance to four BPL branches. “IJC agreed to place two bilingual Justice Fellows full-time at BPL,” notes Higgins. The Fellows provide legal screenings, application assistance, and court representation for documented or undocumented immigrants. They “are embedded in the library four days a week and work under the supervision of experienced immigration lawyers,” says Raison. “They meet clients in the library, and their services are connected to and integrated with other library programs and services.”

The demand grew so much that BPL hired a full-time New Americans Navigator to talk to patrons on the phone, make appointments and referrals, distribute reliable print materials to the public, and support staff training. In 2015–16, there were over 6,000 calls to the hotline, says Raison. Raison also partnered with MOIA and the NY Legal Assistance Group to have a full-time Russian-speaking immigration attorney provide citizenship help in libraries in south Brooklyn.

Raison’s work not only “addresses the challenges our immigrant communities face with great thoughtfulness and compassion,” says Higgins, “[it] anticipated…needs in our communities that were not yet as pressing when we were designing our program.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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Comments

  1. Congrats on being recognized for the amazing work you’re doing at BPL, Eva! A well-earned honor!

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