I work at the South Huntington Public Library, in South Huntington, Long Island,NY. which serves a large Latinx population. Working in a community that is diverse is something that gives me joy, and it is important to me. Coming from a Latinx background going to the library as a child was not fun. I always had trouble finding books in Spanish where I could see myself, and I felt that I could not identify with the librarians at the time. Now, as an adult I love being able to work with this community because I can see how comfortable people feel when they come to me for help. I always try to make the transaction fun and make jokes that will make them laugh. It’s nice to be able to build on that level of comfort to get feedback on what materials and programs they would like to see and also to promote library services to a population that has been traditionally underserved in some neighborhoods. For example, many Latinx parents who visit my library have told me how thankful they are for the the information provided, and how they were not aware of bilingual books and fun library programs available to their children.
Getting to know your community and getting feedback on what they want to see in their library is crucial to providing good service, and we must keep in mind that doing this will create a positive chain reaction! The more you listen to your patrons, taking what they are interested in, the more you can create programs and book collections geared towards them. Once people in your library find themselves represented they will spread the information to their families, and friends – word of mouth is one of the the elements that we strive for, as one person tells the other more patrons will come to your library! For example – myself and my coworkers noticed an increase in Latinx populations in our service area; because of this we’ve began hosting Dia programs a few years ago.
What is Dia you ask? Once a year libraries across the nation celebrate Dia de Los Niños Y Dia de los Libros. This happens on April 30th and celebrates children and multicultural literacy. I love this initiative because working in a community that has a Latinx populations, I want them to know that we are responsive to their culture and needs, and I enjoy creating a program for my youngest patrons at the library. I have been doing this program for the past two years and both years I have had great turn-out and the parents love it! In 2017 we hosted this program for the first time and for crafts the children made hand kites out of wooden rings and ribbons, we also had face painting, and plastic egg maracas. I read the book How do you say? = ¿Como se dice? by Angela Dominguez. Because our community is so diverse, at that program I had children from Indian, Asian, Latin American, and European backgrounds. An exercise I did with them while reading the book was asking them if the knew any other languages; I had a few kids that spoke Urdu, Mandarin, Spanish, and Italian. When I was reading the bilingual book we would say a phrase or word in English, then we would say it in Spanish and then we invited patrons who spoke other languages to share the word with us in their language – Urdu, Mandarin and Italian. The children loved being able to get crafty and learn new words in other languages, and it was great for us to be able to have participants share part of their heritage!
This year I decided that I wanted to have a COCO themed Dia event, children created sugar skull masks out of paper plates, rain sticks out of empty toilet paper rolls, and we decorated mini piñatas while listening to the Coco soundtrack in both English and Spanish. I read two books to them – one was Matt de La Pena’s Miguel and the Grand Harmony which allowed the kids to learn new words in Spanish as well as introducing them in other languages. The second book I read was Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups by Tadgh Bentley, which is a fun and interactive book about a cute little penguin who had chili and can’t get rid of his hiccups! We ended our party by having a piñata and the kids being able to experience breaking it open to get candy! Here is a quick resource that you can look through for next year if you want to create your own Dia Program: http://dia.ala.org/content/about-d%C3%ADa
Diversity is a huge part of what I LOVE to do with my littles! I’m a firm believer that our jobs are a gateway to advocate for them and allow books on our shelves and programs in our rooms that highlight our kids’ beliefs and teach each other of different cultures, and ideas. Being responsive to our community needs will open a whole new world not only for minority groups to feel included but also to other children who may not know about culture or beliefs other then their own.
If you are reading this I invite you to go get to know your patrons and figure out what new ideas can be brought to the library that will not only benefit them but others as well. Keep in mind that you don’t need to be from the same background or speak their language to provide multicultural programs and make them feel welcomed. Dia is an amazing program to start with and I guarantee you that your littles will have a blast! My hope is that by reading this you can get a glimpse of what I love to do, and how anyone in this beautiful profession can achieve it by seeing happy parents and littles feeling welcomed and acknowledged by their library.
(Photos courtesy of guest blogger)
Today’s guest blogger is Georgina Rivas-Martinez. Georgina is a Young Adult and Youth Services librarian at the South Huntington Public Library in Long Island NY. She enjoys doing multicultural programs with the kids and sparking their creativity. This year, Georgina is a part of the ALSC mentorship program and thought this would be an amazing topic to showcase.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group and III. Programming Skills.