Who are my Spanish-speaking customers? How do I connect with this community? How do I identify their library needs?
Diversity among Latinos in Utah
To illustrate the diversity that exists within the community of Spanish-speaking residents of our state, we only need to look at the various labels used for self-identification and for reference to others. This terminology includes Hispanic, Latino/Latina, Chicano/Chicana, Argentino, Colombiano, Guatemalteco, Mexicano, Peruano, Salvadoreño, Mexican-American, and many others.
But diversity of the Hispanic/Latino ethnic group includes factors beyond country of origin and may include:
- Specific region of the country of origin
- Length of residence in the United States
- Level of fluency in English
- Educational level
- Economic level
- Degree of acculturation
- Understanding of public library services
Understanding of the Public Library
Many Spanish-speaking patrons have erroneous ideas of what a public library is, what it looks like, and who can use it. Among the common misconceptions we find that:
- Public libraries are only for the educated or for those attending school.
- Library materials are for sale, not for loan.
- Access to the library and library services requires a fee.
- The English word library sounds like the Spanish word “Librería” which means bookstore and the implication is that the books and other materials are purchased.
- Libraries will divulge the personal information used in obtaining a library card to government agencies.
- Libraries only provide materials in English.
Working with Community Leaders
Community leaders are an excellent conduit for learning about your community. They are:
- Experts on the community.
- Trusted and relied upon by community members.
- Dedicated to helping the community.
- Part of the social network of the community.
Community leaders are the most effective resource for:
- Planning – Involve community leaders from the beginning you’ll benefit from their expertise.
- Outreach – Show your willingness to put yourself out there, in the community.
- Marketing – Find out where outreach is most effective and how to do it.
- Evaluation – Accept that many standard measures of evaluation (e.g. circulation, number of registered borrower, library visits, etc.) may not show dramatic increases.
- Reaching the Goal – Community members trust the library and recognize it as a valuable and relevant civic resource in their lives.
Community Leader Interview
Use the Community Leader Interview Process to:
- Introduce yourself and learn about the community.
- Identify the needs of the community.
- Get feedback on a specific service or program.
- Publicize or market a specific service or program .
- Find out how well you are doing in reaching and serving the community.
Benefits of Community Leader Interviews
- Informs the community about the library – You teach about the library in an informal way.
- Helps the library be more responsive to customers – You find out what is important to the community so you can effectively participate.
- Connects the library to community issues – People talk to each other and other community leaders will know about you as soon as you get out there.
- Validates the community leader – You show respect for their expertise and knowledge.
- Builds relationships and trust.
- Develops library advocates – People informed about the library can be better supporters.
- Provides multiple perspectives.
- Stimulates creativity – Ideas from people outside the library may be quite different.