Date of Award

May 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Information Studies

First Advisor

Wolfram Dietmar

Committee Members

Ana Ndumu, Iris Xie, Tomas Lipinski, Abigail Phillips


This qualitative exploratory study investigated the experiences, or the lack, of underemployed immigrants with limited job skills, limited income, and limited English speaking skills with public library services as they face many stages of cultural and informational adaptation in the United States. Their information needs are at first primarily for housing, employment, education and social services. In general, they came to the US looking for opportunities, and to be successful. Those achievement means finding good jobs, educations, skills, and greater financial security. Having greater options starts by getting access to information that leads to those objectives. Public libraries have provided many opportunities to millions of people in the US and, by tapping into individual need for information, library services have benefited communities across the country. US public libraries emphasized services to immigrants as an essential segment of their activities. This was accomplished by offering and providing immigrants with relevant need-based assistance, such as improving their job searching skills and learning opportunities. Services to newcomers are crucial aspects of most public libraries with significant immigrant populations. While the literature on immigrants in libraries was useful in guiding this research, the focus of those bodies of work did not necessarily address the information needs of under-employed, limited English speaking immigrants who may have or may not have used public libraries. Following two separate pilot studies, I was able to collect survey data for 30 immigrant participants. I then reached out to public librarians who serve immigrants and found they were very accessible online during the pandemic. I recruited 30 public librarians in the New York City area who were asked to take part in questionnaire, interview, and focus group data collection to provide librarian perspectives on meeting the needs of recent immigrants. The data from the immigrant surveys, the librarians’ surveys, interviews, and the focus group was analyzed and examined using principles of open coding. I identified 3 categories of desired types of library services, 3 categories of roles that public librarians play in engaging immigrants in their daily lives to meet their information needs, and 3 categories of challenging barriers public librarians face in providing services to underemployed immigrants. The research ends with recommendations for information professionals for improving the service provision models between immigrants and librarians.