TEMPLE TERRACE — The Hillsborough County Commission and the Temple Terrace Library are the first local government entities of their kind to officially embrace and help meet the needs of refugees who settle in the community.
In September, commissioners passed a resolution designating the area as a welcoming place for immigrants. It is the only county in the state to declare itself as such.
In turn, Temple Terrace library officials recently set up a Citizenship Corner at its 202 Bullard Parkway site containing materials about the naturalization process, including learning the English language and the basics about our country’s history and its democratic form of government.
Currently, no other library in the county has adopted the initiative, sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Temple Terrace library and Clearwater Public Library in Pinellas County, in fact, are the only two Tampa Bay area libraries with a Citizenship Corner.
“Part of our mission of the agency is to promote citizenship and to help educate people on the process,” said Sharon Scheidhauer, Southeast Region U.S. Department of Homeland Security public affairs officer.
In conjunction with that effort, the agency plans to host a free Naturalization Information Session at the Temple Terrace library from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on March 14.
“I encourage anyone who is thinking about it to come,” Scheidhauer said. “It helps them get ready for the test and there will be people there ready to answer any questions they might have about it and who will walk them through the entire process.”
Temple Terrace Library Division Director Teressa Fraser said the library also has a lot of materials regarding immigration and naturalization available for free.
“If people need to learn English, we have all that information, and if they come in here, we’ll help move them along their path,” she said. “Our goal is to connect the people to all our different resources.”
Fraser also noted that every Monday from 6 to 7 p.m. through Nov. 16, the Hillsborough Literacy Council hosts a free English Practice Conversation Corner at the Temple Terrace Library. It allows attendees to have conversations with other adults learning the language within a non-threatening environment.
“People sometimes assume there is a charge for what we offer, but that’s not the case,” said Fraser, who emphasized that patrons with library cards are welcome to access a myriad of other free resources in addition to books, including DVDs and the use of the library’s computers.
Temple Terrace Adult Programming Librarian Kelsey Peduzzi believes the Citizenship Corner is a perfect fit for the library, considering it’s located in an area with a high population of immigrants that include students attending the University of South Florida.
“Libraries are safe places for people to come and people will benefit from becoming citizens,” Peduzzi said.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]