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Reaching Out

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.