How Do Arizona's Public Libraries Serve the Spanish-Speaking?
Thursday, December 15, 2011
by: Dr. Denice Adkins & C. Sean Burns

Section: News Articles

Fall/Winter 2011

Dr. Denice Adkins is an Associate Professor for the College of Education at the University of Missouri and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, major in Information Resources and Library Science and minor in Language, Reading, and Culture.

C. Sean Burns is a PhD Candidate, Instructor, Researcher, Librarian at Stephens College in Columbia, University of Missouri.

In late 2009 and early 2010, we surveyed Arizona public library directors to find out what services were being provided for Spanish-speakers in their libraries. This survey was based on Latino Library Services Indicators identified by the Report Card on Public Library Services to the Latino Community by Reynaldo and Marta Stiefel Ayala. The Report Card was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and published by REFORMA in 1994.


Thirty nine libraries had at least one librarian and 51 libraries had at least one clerk who spoke Spanish

Report Card indicators included Budget, Materials Availability, Access to Materials, Publicity and Outreach, Personnel/Staff Development, Materials Use, Library Use, Reference, Programming, Physical Building/Accessibility, and Planning. Our survey did not go into as much depth as the Report Card, and primarily emphasized Spanish language services. We looked at number of Spanish-speaking to total staff; Spanish-language to total books, newspapers, and magazines; number of Spanish-language to total library programs; availability of Spanish-language forms, signage, and catalog; and outreach to the Spanish-speaking community.
The survey went to 194 public libraries in Arizona, and we received 85 responses, for a return rate of 44%. Each branch in a library system received an individual survey. Distributing surveys by branch allowed us to collect relevant data from rural libraries while at the same time isolating differences in urban neighborhood libraries. The population that uses a branch in a predominantly Latino neighborhood might differ from the population that uses a branch in a predominantly African-American or white neighborhood, and these both might differ  from the population that uses the central branch of a library.
We present the results below, but when reading this “real world” data, there are caveats to keep in mind. The libraries that responded to this survey may not be representative of all Arizona libraries. Further, not every library that responded answered every survey question. In our results, we report both means (averages) and medians (middle values of a sample). Means are sensitive to extreme values. In those cases, the median is the honest “middle point” because half the values are lower than the median and half are higher. 
Staff: The 85 Arizona public libraries who returned the survey had a total of 346 librarians working for them, 60 of whom spoke Spanish. The number of librarians working per branch ranged from 0 to 17. The number of clerks working per branch ranged from 0 to 36. There were 806 clerks, 134 of whom spoke Spanish. All told, close to 17% of staff in responding libraries are Spanish-fluent.  Thirty nine libraries had at least one librarian and 51 libraries had at least one clerk who spoke Spanish. For children’s services staff, the situation is slightly less optimistic. While 21% of all children’s services staff speak Spanish (37 out of 173.5 people), only 31 libraries have Spanish-speaking children’s staff.
Materials: Responding libraries had a mean of 32,154 and a median of 20,000 adult books in their collections. About three percent of those books were in Spanish. The number of Spanish-language adult books in a library ranged from 0 to 15,000; the mean number of Spanish-language books was 901, while the median was 200. Children’s collection sizes ranged from 200 to 74,440. Children’s collections had a mean of 14,690 volumes, with a median of 7,924. Slightly more children’s materials, 4.6 percent, were in a Spanish or Spanish-bilingual format than adult materials were.
Of the libraries’ collections of films and videos, 11.5 percent were in Spanish. The mean collection size was 2,954 films and videos, with a median of 1,625. Libraries held a mean of 2,758 and median 925 audio materials (records, tapes, CDs, etc.), of which 5% were in Spanish. Fifteen percent of libraries’ magazine holdings and nearly 4 percent of their newspaper holdings were Spanish-language formats. Fifty-six of the 85 respondents provided details about their collection of E-resources, which broadly included electronic books and databases.  Forty of the respondent libraries held Spanish-language e-resources.
Programs: Libraries held between 0 and 87 adult programs per month, with a mean of 7.9 (median 4) programs per library, and of those, 27% of those programs were bilingual or Spanish-language programs. Libraries held between 0 and 75 children’s programs per month, with a mean of 11.82 and median of 8 programs per library. Of those, 9.5% were bilingual or Spanish-language programs. Seventeen libraries out of 85 made English as a Second/Other Language and literacy courses available at their locations.
Services: Libraries were open for an average of 46 hours per week, and 23 had Spanish-speaking staff available during all open hours.Library forms were another area of high Spanish-language penetration: 44 libraries made bilingual forms available and 50 had bilingual or Spanish-language flyers. Only 18 libraries had bilingual signage. Of the 85 respondents, 47 had Spanish-language interfaces on their library catalogs, 42 had Spanish-language interfaces on their public access computers, and 38 had a Spanish-language web interface. 
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