Volume 29, Number 3, Fall 2007

New York State Library and Partners Promote Library Outreach to Spanish Speakers

Cassandra Artale and Laurie Northrup, Library Development Specialist and Graduate Student Assistant, New York State Library

The Bill and Melinda Gates Library Foundation and WebJunction provided a grant to New York state to participate in the national Spanish Language Outreach Program, Round II, from 2006 to 2007. This exciting training grant opportunity helped library staff and trustees of public, school, correctional, and other types of libraries - as well as graduate students - learn how to reach out to Spanish speakers in their communities and offer library services and public access computing to meet their needs. The state library, the New York Library Association, the New York State Association of Library Boards, and the Public Library System Directors Organization, representing New York’s twenty-three public library systems, partnered to make this statewide training program a huge success.

New York’s Spanish Language Outreach Program had three phases. First, twelve trainers from sixteen of the state’s twenty-three public library systems gathered in Albany, along with state library staff, for a multi-day Train-the-Trainer Institute featuring expert trainer Yolanda Cuesta. Second, the trainers returned to their own regions to lead workshops for library staff and trustees from all types of libraries across the state.

Overall, 756 people took park in forty-seven workshops held between November 2006 and May 2007. Workshop participants learned about and practiced how to connect with leaders in the Spanish-speaking community. The purpose of this program activity is to connect and discover community needs and interests. Community leaders offer valuable information about these needs, as libraries seek to develop new ways to serve their changing and growing communities.

Early workshop results already show new and exciting services, and programs are being offered across the state. Libraries in Rochester and Buffalo plan to set up exhibits at upcoming Puerto Rican cultural festivals to promote the library. The Suffolk Cooperative Library System on Long Island translated local history pamphlets to help Spanish-speaking residents learn about the history of their new home. The Sodus Free Library has hired a teacher to provide basic Spanish lessons for the entire staff. The Mid-York Library System is working with local correctional facilities and a Latino community organization to develop a better Spanish-language collection. Many libraries have already added Spanish-language computer skills classes and translated brochures, information guides, and library Web sites.

The third phase of this statewide project includes continued follow-up with workshop participants to assist them in implementing what they learned. In addition to the excellent WebJunction resources available to participants for program planning, the regional trainers are keeping in contact with program participants and holding additional programs, such as the Ramapo-Catskill Library System’s reunion for participants in the fall. The state library and its partners will spotlight successful local programs during the 2007 New York Library Association conference in Buffalo. Plans are also in the works to publish an article and a special report documenting the impact of the Gates/WebJunction Spanish Language Outreach Program in New York State.

For further information on New York State’s Spanish Language Outreach Program visit the New York State Library’s Web site or contact Cassandra Artale, Library Development Specialist, New York State Library.