Libraries Reaching out to Hispanics

By King, Jason | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 16, 2005 | Go to article overview

Libraries Reaching out to Hispanics


King, Jason, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Jason King Daily Herald Staff Writer

Borrowing a book from the library is second nature to most Americans.

But for Spanish-speaking immigrants with limited English skills, taking a book from a building without paying for it is a foreign concept.

Libraries in four states - Illinois, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida - are participating in a test program that aims to change that.

WebJunction, a Web site that caters to library employees, is offering a Spanish language outreach program to help meet the unique needs of Spanish-speaking library patrons.

"The idea that you can borrow a book and not have to pay for it is not common knowledge for immigrants," said Laura Staley, program coordinator for WebJunction. "A lot of libraries need resources and help to bridge the gap."

The program teaches libraries methods to target Spanish-speaking people who might not be using the library already.

Four people from each state attended training in Seattle. Now they'll share their knowledge with other librarians in up to 10 local workshops. The program is funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Illinois participants included Round Lake Area Public Library director Elizabeth Crane and Hector Marino, the head of computers and technology services with the Des Plaines Public Library.

Crane and said the information has been invaluable to her library as well as others.

"It's about outreach, understanding cultural differences and trying to understand why a Hispanic person may hesitate to ask questions," she said.

Crane's library district has a Spanish-speaking population of between 40 percent and 45 percent.

She said the library has made a significant effort to serve Spanish-speaking patrons. In addition to a sizable Spanish language collection and bilingual signage, the library houses an immigration center run by an outside agency that helps immigrants learn about citizenship and naturalization.

"This library was already doing a lot of those things that the program suggested, so it was nice to know we were a little ahead of the game there," she said. …

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