Dia

Día in Iowa!

Over the past two years, Iowa Library Services/State Library of Iowa has incorporated the recognition of Día in its annual strategic plan.  Our efforts have resulted in a greater level of awareness among staff in many of Iowa’s 544 public libraries of the importance in recognizing the multiple cultures present in Iowa’s towns and cities, and of providing programming and collections that reflect those cultures.

Iowa’s population is currently just over 3 million people, with significant populations of many cultural groups.  Among these are the following:  5.5% of the state’s population is Latino, with a projected increase by 2040 to 12.4%;  African Americans at 3.2%; Asian-Pacific Americans at 2.3%; Native Americans at under .5% and recent immigrants from Eastern Europe and Africa. Information at these links from the Iowa Data Center and the PowerPoint presentation by Dr. Mark Grey of the University of Northern Iowa detail the specific cultural groups within these broader categories.

Families enjoy reading together during a Día storytime in Skokie, IL.
Families enjoy reading together during a Día storytime in Skokie, IL.

Preceding Iowa Library Services’ inclusion of Día in its strategic plan, the Marshalltown Public Library, which has long celebrated Día and has made other significant efforts to include Latino families in its services, was awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Services in 2013, awarded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.  Marshalltown’s youth services manager, Joa LaVille, was instrumental in developing the services that in large part led to this award, and inspired us collectively to encourage other libraries to engage in outreach to all families in their communities, and to recognize the richness of the cultural diversity within their communities.

We then offered a webinar, offered on a statewide basis, last April 2, which is archived on our website.  Joa and another youth services librarian, Betty Collins of the Musser Public Library in Muscatine, presented their successes with Día programming to Iowa’s youth services librarians.  Both libraries have successfully mounted a variety of programs recognizing the multiple cultures in their communities.  Many of Iowa’s libraries are very small, with limited staff and hours.  But we encouraged them to do what they can, perhaps a display of books and other resources that can act as a welcoming gesture to families in their communities.

This spring, we were delighted to learn that one of our libraries, the Sioux Center Public Library, which serves a community of about 7,300 people won the national Mora Award, presented by REFORMA for the program their staff offered to celebrate Día.  Ruth Mahaffy, Bilingual Services Director, developed the program and will accept the award at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in January.

This spring, at our biennial conference for Iowa’s public youth services librarians entitled “Kids First,” Ruth and other staff from the Sioux Center Public Library will present a program on Día, and how they put together an award-winning program with very little money.  Joa LaVille will also be presenting a session on outreach to Spanish-speaking populations.  We used to hold this conference at the end of April, but I’ve moved it to early May, so that it no longer conflicts with Día.

Putting together a state-wide initiative means a commitment to a long arc and working to help library staff start where they are . . . sometimes small rural libraries with one staff member and relatively few hours of service per week can feel overwhelmed at the thought of an outreach project.  But by showing them that their peers are doing this, we can build momentum across the state in emphasizing the importance of recognizing the growing cultural diversity of their communities in their choices for programming, outreach, and collection development.


Merri M. Monks is the Youth Services Consultant for Iowa Library Services/State Library of Iowa.  Her email is merri.monks@lib.state.ia.us.

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