Survey on Library Services for Spanish Speakers Results Summary
On behalf of the ALA RUSA RSS (Library Services for Spanish Speakers Committee)
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
by: Julie Robinson, Marjorie Schreiber Lear, Stephen Marvin and Gabriel Duque

Section: News Articles

Fall/Winter 2011

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) is responsible for stimulating and supporting excellence in the delivery of general library services and materials, and the provision of reference and information services, collection development, readers advisory, and resource sharing for all ages, in every type of library.

Mr. Gabriel Duque is an assistant librarian at the Shapiro Undergraduate Library at the University of Michigan. He obtained an MS in Information Science from the University at Albany in 2007. Currently he is the chair of the ALA RUSA RSS Services to the Spanish Speaking Committee. (Chair, 2011 - 2012)

Ms. Marjorie Schreiber Lear works as Multicultural Outreach Librarian for Palm Beach County Library and is a member of RSS and REFORMA. (Member, 2011 - 2012)

Mr. Stephen Marvin, Reference, Faculty Mentoring and Campus Copyright Coordinator, FH Green Library, West Chester University. Stephen is also active in library consortia development in Central and South America with IFLA and INASP. He was the facilitator for the IFLA pre-satellite conference in Guatemala in August 2011. (Member, 2010 - 2012)

Ms. Julie Robinson has been the Branch Manager at the Irene H. Ruiz Biblioteca de las Americas in Kansas City, Missouri for 8 years. Prior to that she was a children's librarian in Kansas City and in Anaheim, California. She received her MLS from UCLA. (Member, 2011 - 2013)

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

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 
us map

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)
Key Findings

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.
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