"I like my tutors always": East African Students in a Public Library Homework Help Program

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Jordan Conwell


The more than one-hundred year old public library in a small urban city in the northeastern U.S. (henceforth referred to as Riverburg) describes itself as an integral sponsor of knowledge, culture, education, and information in the city and an institution that serves “users of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds” in order to retain status as “both a significant institutional symbol and a core working component of our democratic society” (library website). Perhaps as a result of its history and mission, the library houses an afterschool homework help program that runs most weekdays during the school year. This paper concerns how East African youth (many of whom are immigrant and/or refugee) in the Riverburg Public Library afterschool program, in the words of the program director in a conversation with me in October 2011, “view themselves both as a part of the afterschool program and in relation to the program.” A sizeable and visible minority group in the community, this group of students faces multiple obstacles to success in the traditional structures of the local public schools, some having to do with factors well outside of their control. The students’ cultural context presents unique challenges for the library afterschool program, which seeks to help these students succeed in school by providing a space where tutors can help them with their homework.

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Conwell, J. (2012). "I like my tutors always": East African Students in a Public Library Homework Help Program. Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning & Community-Based Research, 1, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.56421/ujslcbr.v1i0.93
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