The mission of the ALA RUSA RSS Library Services for Spanish Speaking Committee is to help improve library services for Spanish speaking patrons. Over the years the committee has offered conference programs and created print and online resources see http://tinyurl.com/libraryservicesspanish.
Recently, the committee decided to assess the needs, successes and challenges experienced by librarians working with these populations around the country to help plan for future activities. Over the course of a year, the committee created, re-wrote, edited and honed a list of questions into an informal online surveytargeting librarians from all types of libraries. The survey was distributed through various professional email listservs including ili-l (instruction), publib-l (public libraries), colldv-l (collection development) and the REFORMA listserv.
(challenges include) access; linguistic barriers; Time constraints, theirs and ours; informing (patrons) of our services and resources; legal issues & trust; some are here without documentation.
Percent of US Population 2006 – Hispanic or Latino
The survey was conducted between May 5 and August 5, 2011, and included 14 questions about the needs of Spanish-speaking patrons, successful programming, greatest challenges, collection development resources and professional development topics. Not all respondents answered all questions and some questions allowed for multiple answers. A total of 97 individual librarians responded representing a variety of libraries, the majority of which were public.
Distribution of Survey Responses
(48% of respondents provided location information)
Although most responses were from urban libraries or areas close to cities with large Hispanic populations, some responses reflect recent trends of increased migration to “non-traditional” areas, including rural areas, especially in the Southeast.
Most programs identified as successful aim to meet basic needs of community members. Examples include parenting and children’s programs, computer/internet classes, English language classes and legal or employment assistance. Other successful programs help maintain a connection to Hispanic culture and information.
The biggest challenge in serving Spanish-speakers is trying to providing excellent customer service lacking the necessary staff to do so. Other challenges identified are establishing effective connections with the local community that translate into regular visits to the library, and locating sources for collection development of Spanish language material.
The majority of survey takers expressed a preference for online webinars, website and print resources for professional development. A third of respondents would prefer a conference program. Topics they would like to see covered include outreach, marketing, collection development and programming.