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Welcome: Library Services to Multi-Lingual Communities in Connecticut: Meetings

Notes: June 25, 2014 Meeting at MLSC

Dawn La Valle spoke about LSTA grant opportunities that will be available next year through the Connecticut State Library. Dawn mentioned interactive learning software for ESL patrons that she used in Westchester, NY, particularly these (links will open in a new window):

Merit Software

English Computerized Learning, Inc.

EyeSpeak English

Side by Side Interactive CD-ROM

She also mentioned these addional general ESL materials sites (links will open in a new window):

English Langauge Teaching from Pearson

Delta Publishing Company


Allan Boggio, Community Relations Officer, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), talked about their Citizenship Resource Center website and the pages that relate specifically to libraries.

Homa Naficy from Hartford Public Library spoke about their immigration and citizenship services including those that promote civic engagement to local immigrant communities.

Notes: November 15, 2012 (Webinar): Creating a Latino Friendly Library

Connecticut Librarians looking for a few practical techniques to engage the Latino community benefited from Yolanda Cuesta's twenty-five years of experience in the library field during a webinar viewing event hosted by the Connecticut State Library's Division of Library Development on November 15, 2012.

Cuesta, lead consultant at Cuesta Multicultural Consulting, said during the American Library Association ASCLA webinar "Creating a Latino Friendly Library", "to get Latinos into the library, get the library into the community."

Cuesta framed her presentation around three ideas: Build trust, Show and Tell, and Make it easy.

The first step, according to Cuesta, is ensuring that the library is a place that Latinos trust. To do so, libraries need to build relationships with community leaders. That trust will then translate to the library. Cuesta's own Community Leader Interview Guide, available on her website, is designed for this purpose. Cuesta recommends starting with the two most respected institutions in the Latino community: churches and schools.

Knowing more about the particular characteristics of the Latinos in one's community is also important because this is a population with huge geographical diversity. Though 67% of the U.S. Latino population is of Chicano heritage, there are myriad Latino countries where idioms, language, and traditions differ widely. A Guatemalan family, for example, might celebrate holidays differently than a family from Brazil or the Dominican Republic. For some, Spanish is even a second language.

Cuesta's second step is showing and telling Latinos what's in the library for them. As with any effort that segments an audience, the emphasis is on selling the appeal. "Appealing to the interests of the specific audience is really just good business," remarked Mary Engels, Director of the Middletown Library Service Center.

Cuesta recommended using simple, but effective tools that are readily available. Labeling books, videos, and PR materials with "Gratis" is one example. Spanish language signage, too, makes it easy for patrons to find materials. Using language that has appeal to that population is important as well. One webinar participant wrote, "Ayudando a los niños a tener éxito en la escuela" which translates to "Helping children succeed in school." Pleased, Cuesta exclaimed, "That's perfect! It's in Spanish and appeals to the issue that is the most critical to any parent - their children."

In terms of finding people, Cuesta noted that Latino populations tend to stay within comfort zones and known locations. She recommended that librarians go to these same places to post flyers and pass out information; laundromats, supermarkets, soccer fields, clinics, post offices, PTA meetings, the mall.

Making it Easy, the third step, is about presenting a casual, relaxed setting for Latinos, creating a place they want to come. Cuesta recommended that a librarian use her 'Latina' eyes to judge the look and feel of the library, or asking for help from Latinas already using the library. What might seem welcoming and warm to an Anglo might feel off-putting or unfriendly to a Latino. Finally, keeping the staff who are recognizable from presenting to the Latino community is an important consideration.

Cuesta recommended looking at programs and web sites from different libraries to glean best practices, calling particular attention to the Danbury CT site as well as those from Salinas, CA and Skokie, IL.

One in four people under the age of 18 is Latino, and the U.S. Hispanic population is now 50.5 million -- a 43% growth from 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Cuesta recommends thinking beyond demographics; while some Latinos may be newly arrived to the US, the term 'Latino' does not equate to 'immigrant,' a mistake many Anglos make. Indeed, many Latino families are in their third or fourth generation of citizenship.

The Division of Library Development provides leadership, funding, education, and statewide services that enhance a local library's ability to deliver high-quality library service to their community.

Welcome is one of the Division's many effort to help libraries serve a special population with information, shared resources, a listserv, and roundtable style meetings.

Stay tuned for future meetings and gatherings.

- Mary Engels, Division of Library Development, Connecticut State Library

Welcome: Services to Multi-Lingual Communities

Welcome is a discussion group for Connecticut library staff serving multilingual communities. The group is facilitated by Steve Cauffman and Maria Bernier from the Division of Library Development at the Connecticut State Library.

Quick fact: 22% of the people in Connecticut speak a language other than English at home.*

*Source: 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates via American Fact Finder

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