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Collection Development: Catering to the Hispanic Community

by on December 22, 2015

According to the United States Census Bureau, the estimated Hispanic population as of 2014 is roughly 17.4% of the United States’ 319,000,000 population.[1] While not all of the individuals who classify themselves as Hispanic or Latino speak Spanish, according to a 2015 report released by the prestigious Instituto Cervantes “the United States is now the world’s second largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico.”[2] The U.S has 41 million native speakers and 11 million who are bilingual. Those are some serious numbers and public libraries are at the forefront of assisting many of these Hispanics with whatever resources they have available. Many Spanish speakers go to public libraries to look for answers regarding a path to citizenship, questions about the I-90 form, services offered for Spanish speakers, and my favorite, “Donde tienes tus libros españoles?” (Where do you have your Spanish books?) Publishing companies are doing their best to cater to this large community, but answer this question: Even with more Spanish books readily available, who are the librarians assessing community needs and building these Spanish and bilingual collections? It is one thing to be a Hispanic librarian, as I am, but it is another thing to truly understand the Hispanic community to know how a collection should be built.

In library school, they teach you about multicultural librarianship and how to cater to diverse communities. Learning something can only take you so far, however. It is the application portion that is key. Libraries should “recruit Spanish-speaking personnel in all job classifications, i.e. librarians, paraprofessionals, clerical workers and volunteers.”[3] Librarians and library professionals should never underestimate the power of the “door knocking” approach. Get out into the Hispanic speaking community in your area to sit and talk to individuals who wish to have input on the Spanish and bilingual material located in your library; they are stakeholders as well.

Librarians can no longer sit back and wait for Hispanics to provide them with information regarding collection development. Outreach is the answer! Making contacts and connections throughout the community for assistance with this process is an integral part of the collection development process. If this is not accomplished, Hispanics will assume the library does not care about their needs and does not wish to have programs that cater to their community and culture. Whenever possible, advertise and post signage around the library in Spanish. This is a useful tactic that will let Spanish speakers know that the library indeed understands there is a Hispanic community and they are important as well. Social networking is obviously very popular in this digital age, so posting in English and Spanish gets the word out much better than only posting in English. If you do not speak Spanish, use Google Translate. It is a highly resourceful tool that goes a long way.

There are many ways to reach out to the Hispanic community. Do not underestimate the little things and do not assume the Hispanic community does not take notice. As Louis Pasteur once famously said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

[1] “Quick Facts Beta: United States,” The United States Census Bureau, accessed November 17, 2015, http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/RHI725214/00.

[2] “US now has more Spanish speakers than Spain – only Mexico has More,” The Guardian, accessed November 16, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/29/us-second-biggest-spanish-speaking-country.

[3] “Guidelines for Library Services to Spanish-Speaking Library Users,” Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), A Division of the American Library Association, accessed November 18, 2015, http://www.ala.org/rusa/resources/guidelines/guidespanish.

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