Henrico County Public Library (HCPL), in Henrico County, Virginia, has been investing in engaging its growing Latinx community. The library demonstrated that system-wide priority with the selection of The Distance Between Us
by Reyna Grande, a memoir chronicling the challenges of the author’s immigration journey and her path to obtaining citizenship and higher education, for its All Henrico Reads author event in 2018. A panel discussion on the immigrant experience in Henrico, moderated by Library Manager Cristina Ramirez, followed the event. In the discussion, a group of Henrico residents shared their immigration stories and their experiences navigating a new country, region, and language. They discussed their paths to becoming successful Henrico business owners, educators, and county employees. That panel program won a NACo (National Association of Counties) Award in 2019.
Ms. Ramirez regularly promotes library services on local Spanish-language radio station WBTK 1380. Several years ago, she began working with WBTK 1380/Radio Poder, a Spanish-language radio station that offers weekly programs to educate, share local resources, and update the community in the Greater Richmond Region. During the first Enfoque a la Comunidad program of the month, she gives an update on HCPL programs, activities, and resources. She has also consulted with Henrico County Public Relations to give joint updates on county-wide resources in both English and Spanish.
In 2018, HCPL librarian Roman Lopez debuted Cuentos Bilingües, the system’s first bilingual storytime, and in 2019 librarian Julia Bryan-Diehl started Hello!, the system’s first multilingual storytime for English-language learning families of all backgrounds. These multilingual storytimes received a NACo award in 2020. Also in 2020, librarian William Perkins planned the first adult Discusión de libros latinoamericanos, which was delayed by the pandemic but is planned to debut in 2021.
HCPL also works across departments and agencies to serve the immigrant community of Henrico County. One such project was the library participating in the county-wide My Henrico Academy Program, in which Latino and Asian community members learned about the various units and departments of the county and all of the services that are offered so that they may inform others in their communities about how to best access and use those resources. The My Henrico Academy Program, also known as “My County Academy: One County, One Community,” won a 2020 NACo Award.
The HCPL Community Relations and Web Team has developed translations of library welcome handouts, and in 2020 published a Spanish-language webpage detailing library services and resources available in Spanish. This work is informed and reviewed by the library’s IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Anti-Racism) Committee and its Equitability Task Force.
The IDEA Committee, previously called the Multicultural Committee, was renamed and refocused in 2020 to ensure that library programming and outreach meets the ideals contained in its acronym. With its new focus, the IDEA Committee is committed to providing year-round diverse programming to engage with and meet the needs of the growing and diverse ethnic and linguistic communities of Henrico County.
The Equitability Task Force (ETF), formed in 2020 in response to the national movement for racial justice, focuses on administrative priorities like policy, training, and communications.
IDEA and the ETF reflect a long-term, sustainable approach at HCPL toward continued engagement efforts, and investment in inclusive services, for the Latinx community and others in Henrico. One important recent ETF initiative involved recognizing and addressing microaggressions in the workplace. Staff were sent guidelines on how to recognize and respond to microaggressions in public service interactions. This will help facilitate the work of anti-racism in libraries.
Other notable initiatives at HCPL include promoting the many resources that can benefit the Spanish-speaking community through blog posts and social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the library's newsletter. Recently, a Spanish-language blog post was shared across social media platforms with information about library resources available in Spanish to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
HCPL is investing resources with the goal of greater engagement with the Latinx community in Henrico County using a multi-faceted approach that includes public programs, media and promotional campaigns, online resources, and structural changes via its committee and task force dedicated to equity and inclusion.