By Marcela Saldivia, PhD
Sedona AZ (March 20, 2012) – Why a Spanish collection? This question was posed by some Sedona residents when they learned that Sedona Public Library had invested time and money in developing a Spanish-language collection. The answer to this question is very straightforward: because there is a huge need to supply information services to the increasing Hispanic population. You might think that this answer is too simplistic to justify the existence of a growing collection (over 2,000 items) in a language other than English. However, the reality strikes us plain and simple: statistics reveal the importance of reaching out to the Latino community because it stands as the largest minority group in the United States, comprising over 48.4 million and continuing to grow. This significant figure is the reason why around the nation, public libraries are actively implementing and promoting library information literacy and services to Latinos. It is estimated that in Sedona over 10% of the population is of Hispanic origin. They represent an important rubric for the growth of Sedona’s economy because they are both consumers as well as hard-working people.
Recently I was in Mexico on vacation, and I took the opportunity to acquire Spanish language materials for Sedona Public Library. I went to one of the biggest and most complete bookstores in Latin America and indulged in selecting audiolibros (books on CD), movies, and music for the expansion and development of our existing Spanish collection. Many current books are now available in Spanish translation, such as the new Steve Jobs biography, self-help book by mind-body healer Deepak Chopra, and fiction by John Grisham. This is in keeping with the ultimate goal of Latino Services, which is to reach out to the Hispanic community and connect them with information and services to better their quality of life, and to build their capacity to engage in the larger community. We believe that well-informed Latinos become engaged and productive members of our community.
In addition to continuing development of the Spanish collection, I also seek to disseminate accurate information and offer effective services that will help Hispanics to successfully integrate into all realms of American life. This year I am offering computer literacy classes in Spanish for the third year in a row every Monday during the months of March and April. As part of the services the library offers to Latinos, I have also scheduled ongoing ESL (English as a Second Language) classes every Wednesday night for the entire year of 2012. These classes wouldn’t be possible without the help of volunteer ESL teacher Gail Basham. Gail’s unconditional enthusiasm and professionalism are the most important ingredients for the success of our ESL classes, which draw around 15 to 18 students every week. This effort goes both ways, because English-speaking community members also expressed their interest in learning Spanish. I offer informal conversation meetings, “Hablamos Español” every first and third Thursday for beginners, and every second and fourth Thursday for “avanzados.”
Another way that Latino Services helps our community is through programs that seek to educate the non-Spanish-speakers about the cultural diversity of the Hispanic world. The role of the library, as I see it, is to reach out to both Spanish and English speakers, including a culturally diverse array of residents and tourists. The Spanish-language collection also brings to the library non-Hispanics interested in reading Spanish books and in practicing their language skills. The same can be said about my programs designed to reach out to everyone regardless of their ethnic background. The main purpose of my services, programs, and events is to bridge cultures in the context of the multicultural and diverse nature of the Sedona population. I also keep in mind that the Sedona Hispanic community is represented by a substantial number of residents not only from our neighboring country in the south but also from a wide range of Latin American republics, namely, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia just to mention a few. Everyone deserves excellence in service and should receive undivided attention when it comes to information services and entertainment.
A Latino Services initiative is not unique to Sedona Public Library, but is rather a nationwide effort at public and college libraries. Now more than ever, programs for Spanish speakers at libraries around the country are seeing record attendance and getting positive feedback from participants. Libraries are offering information services targeted to new immigrants, including English-language learning, computer instruction, children’s concurrent programming, job search workshops and resources, GED workshops, family literacy programming, and training on successfully communicating with library decision makers, staff, community leaders and officials. We are proud that Sedona Public Library is always breaking ground with its variety of information services at all levels. Come to our library and see all that Latino Services has to offer our culturally diverse patrons.