Guidelines for Library Services to Hispanics

Prepared by the Library Services to the Spanish Speaking Committee, Reference and Adult Services Division, American Library Association. Adopted by the Reference and Adult Services Division Board of Directors, January 1988, and submitted to the ALA Standards Committee for review.

1.   Introduction

In this document the RASD Committee on Library Services to the Spanish Speaking has reached a goal in the articulation of longawaited guidelines to reach this important minority community. Provision of library services to Hispanics can prove to be complex: nationality, regional differences, and culture provide myriad combinations for that single community. As an example, there are significant linguistic and cultural differences reflected in the varieties of Spanish spoken by Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and other Hispanic groups. To recognize these differences and to respond correctly to them is a major theme within these guidelines.

REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library Services to the Spanish Speaking, has taken an active role in the production of this document: one committee member served as liaison to REFORMA, and the organization has given input and has reviewed the final document.

Although these guidelines were written by persons with professional interest in service to Hispanics, they were written consciously for all librarians who only now may need to initiate service to this population. In that sense, the guidelines are a basic beginner's manual intended for a hypothetical librarian serving as an administrator of a medium-to-small institution having become aware of the needs of a Hispanic community within its service area. As with any guidelines, these are designed to aid in the development of that service and to remind readers of professional concerns regarding the target population and of the staff who work with that population.

Although the division is aware of numerous terms for this target population, it has chosen the word "Hispanic" as that term has been used in the 1980 Census (see appendix A).

2.     Collection and Selection of Materials

Persons in the Hispanic communities in the United States do not A speak and read only Spanish; they do not all speak and read only English, nor are they all bilingual. The members of these communities have diverse needs and are entitled to access to materials diverse enough to meet those needs. There are standard criteria to aid in the selection of these library materials.

2.1     Relevancy.

The selection of library materials for Hispanics should meet the educational and recreational needs of the community by providing relevant and culturally sensitive materials. Stereotypes should be avoided.

2.2     Language.

The collection should contain materials in Spanish, materials in English, and bilingual materials. Materials selected should reflect the particular linguistic characteristics of the community served. They should also include Standard Spanish language titles from Spain and other Hispanic cultures.

2.3     Physical Access.

If a separate collection of materials for Hispanics is maintained by the library, it should be visible and accessible to the community. In libraries that do not separate these materials, adherence to 2.4 is strongly recommended.

2.4     Bibliographic Access.

Bibliographic access to the library's collection should include Spanish-language subject headings in the public catalog when appropriate for the population served. Locally produced access and identification aids, including lists, bibliographies, and point-of-use bibliographic instructional materials, should be in Spanish when appropriate.

2.5     Formals.

Print and nonprint materials, whether educational or recreational, should be included.

3.   Programs, Services, and Community Relations

Programming, both traditional and nontraditional, is an effective vehicle to attract and meet the needs of the members of the Hispanic community. This is particularly true for those who have recently immigrated and who are unfamiliar with the library services available in the United States. As a result of the potentially limited resources available for service to Hispanics within any given institution, cooperation among all libraries serving the target population is encouraged. Such cooperation may manifest itself in the sharing of program costs, cooperative acquisitions, or joint borrowing privileges, to name but a few.

3.1     Diversity of Culture.

Because the population served may comprise several different Hispanic cultures, each specific culture must be considered in the development of programming and should be accurately reflected in its content.

3.2     Outreach Services.

In order to aid in the planning and delivery of library services to meet community needs, there should be an ongoing process of community analysis and assessment. To further these aims:

(1)     the library should participate in the work of local community organizations of Hispanics; and

(2)     the library should work with such organizations in the development and presentation of library programs and services.

3.3     Intercultural Understanding.

As part of its activities in working with local populations in which a multiplicity of cultures is represented, the library should actively promote intercultural communication and cooperation among them.

3.4     Service to Nonusers.

Attention should be paid to the library nonuser. Programs, literature, and publicity should be used in nontraditional ways and in settings designed to attract those for whom libraries are not part of the experience of life.

3.5     Bibliographic Instruction.

Bibliographic instruction should be offered in Spanish when necessary.

3.6     Language.

In keeping with the ALA policy in support of multilingual services, the language used for programming and services (Spanish, English, bilingual or monolingual) as well as vocabulary, accent, and nuance must be carefully selected. Choices should be based upon the characteristics of the local community.

4.   Personnel

Librarians serving Hispanic communities should be actively recruited. Contact should be made with Hispanic graduates of library education programs accredited by the American Library Association, and extensive use should be made of hotlines, minority recruiting services, and services provided by Hispanic library organizations. Professional staff should be recruited from library education programs accredited by the American Library Association. Written personnel procedures and affirmative action programs should be established and fully implemented. See the ALA Policy Manual for amplification of these.

4.1     Qualification—Professional and Support Staff.

(1)     In addition to the required standards for librarians and support staff, bilingualism and biculturalism are qualities that should be sought; these qualities will ensure sensitivity to the library and information needs of the Hispanic community and enhance service delivery.

(2)     Bilingual and bicultural librarians and support staff should be adequately compensated in positions where job specifications or actual conditions require the knowledge of Spanish.

4.2     Staff Development.

(1)     Librarians and support staff should be provided opportunities to exchange information and ideas as well as to participate in continuing education programs that would enhance the services provided to libraries in Hispanic communities. Examples of programs that could be explored include training in teaching English as a second language, acquisition of Spanish-language materials, citizenship requirements, and community information services.

(2)     Opportunities for advancement should be provided and encouraged by the library administration.

5.   Buildings

The library building, through its location, architecture, and appearance, should be an attraction, not a barrier, to members of the Hispanic community.

5.1     Interior and Exterior.

While the structure may not be able to be altered in any significant way, interior and exterior decor can be modified by choosing decorations and graphics to create an ambience suitable to the clientele served. Care must be taken that the alterations made will conform to the culture of the community.

5.2     Signage.

In any library serving a bilingual community, signs should be bilingual. Attention must be paid to the particular dialect of Spanish used so that the wording, phraseology, and connotation of the language conform to the culture of the community. Signage should be both prominent and visible.

5.3     Location.

When it is possible to control the location of the library within the community to be served, a location should be considered that will induce the target population into the library. When space is allocated within existing structures, it should be both visible and accessible.

Appendix A

Persons of Spanish/Hispanic origin or descent are those who reported either Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or other Spanish/Hispanic origin in question 7. Persons who reported "other Spanish/Hispanic" origin were those whose origins arefrom Spain or the Spanish-speaking countries of Central or South America, or they are persons identifying their origin or descent as being Spanish, Spanish-American, Hispano, Latino, etc.

Origin or descent can be regarded as the ancestry, nationalio group, lineage, or country in which the person or person's parents or ancestors were born before their arrival in the United States. It is important to note that persons of Spanish origin may be of any race. In this report, households and families are classified by the Spanish origin of the householder. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. 1980 Census of Population, "General Social and Economic Characteristics: United States Summary," Appendix, p. B-4, B-5.)