Equity at BPL: All Locations Offer Video Interpretation Services

By Roudnie Célestin, Equity Program Officer at the Boston Public Library

We speak your language! 

We’re happy to announce that the Boston Public Library has launched video interpretation services systemwide through Certified Languages International (CLI).  

Using dedicated Chromebooks at all BPL locations, we are now providing on-demand video interpretation services for visitors who identify as Deaf, hard of hearing, or LOTE (language other than English) speakers. So, whether you speak ASL, Farsi, Haitian Creole, or one of more than 200 other languages, we can now serve you 100% of the time!  

In our city of 690,000 residents, more than a quarter are foreign-born. Fifteen percent have limited English proficiency, and 35 percent speak a language other than English at home. Additionally, according to the National Institute of Health, roughly 15 percent of American adults report some trouble hearing.  

Regardless of your language, we want every single person to feel as welcome as possible in our spaces.   

Some Ways We Can Use CLI to Serve You: 

Together, we can use on demand interpretation: 

  • When you come to a welcome desk or approach a staff member with a question. 
  • For a scheduled session with a BPL Career Counselor. 
  • For a scheduled appointment with a BPL Social Worker. 
  • If you visit our Special Collections department. 

And really, in any way you can imagine.  

Language competency is a core commitment of the BPL. It is a particular specialty of our Community Learning Department through our ESOL classes. Community Learning offers free online or in-person classes, including conversation classes that allow patrons to practice their skills and become more comfortable speaking and interacting in English.  

With respect to the diversity of our patron population, these expanding services align with our dedication to meeting the needs of every patron. That dedication means that we always try to keep the complex needs of immigrant and other communities top of mind. We recognize that many communities may have a history of trauma or other challenges that can impact the ways in which they receive and respond to information and services available in their neighborhood. 

Prior to launching video interpretation, the BPL has offered patrons access to the City of Boston’s Language Line, as well as access to multilingual BPL staff members for translation support.  

While these services have helped the BPL better serve patrons, video interpretation will broadly expand BPL staff’s ability to make patrons feel welcome, allowing us to provide on-demand interpretation support at every BPL location, at any time, in any department. 

As the BPL’s first Equity Program Officer, I’m so proud that we were able to orchestrate the implementation of this new initiative in just this year, and I’m especially appreciative of the collaboration with multiple departments at the BPL - from IT and Training, to Community Learning and Communications.  

Accessibility is a top priority for the City of Boston, and this video interpretation service was made possible with the help of several City departments. Thank you to the Office of Language and Communications Access, who have supported this work by managing our subscription with CLI, and who helped pave the way with the 2016 City ordinance, “Establishing Language and Communications Access for City Services.” We would also like to thank the Equity and Inclusion cabinet, in particular the Disabilities Commission and the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement. We’re grateful for their commitment to meeting the needs of all residents, and making Bostonians feel welcome in as many spaces as possible, whenever possible. 

 BPL Resources 

City of Boston Resources