A place to share books, music, techniques, and all things related to bilingual storytime!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Meaningful Programming for Immigrant Populations

On Wednesday, October 1, Sophie Maier of the Louisville Free Public Library and Betty Abdimishani, Rebecca Montano-Smith, and Brian Hocevar of the Lexington Public Library Village Branch presented a session at the Spectrum of the Future, National Diversity in Libraries conference titled "Successful and Meaningful Services for Your Immigrant Populations." As the Louisville area has seen a tremendous growth in immigrants from various parts of the world (Africa, Latin America, and most recently, Iraq), and the Village branch in Lexington is comprised completely of bilingual staff serving a largely Hispanic neighborhood, these presenters were well experienced with working with a diverse community and finding creative ways to meet their needs at the library.

Sophie shared that there is a very active refugee resettlement agency in Louisville, so the immigrant groups coming to settle there are often changing based on what is transpiring in the world at large. This makes clear how important it is to conitinually be assessing who makes up the community one is serving, what their needs are, and how they have changed to know how the library needs to adapt. How does LFPL do this? Sophie visits this agency's ESOL classes weekly to sign newcomers up for library cards and to introduce them to library services. In addition, she is constantly making contact with local cultural organizations share what the library has to offer. Some of the programs created specifically for the immigrant population in Louisville include the English Conversation Club (a place for English learners to practice their skills with native English speakers), and the Bilingual Cafe (Spanish learners and English learners both practice the language they are learning with native speakers). How does she make this work? Well,
  • volunteers participate in both conversation groups, including interns from the local University Latin American studies department and international student groups
  • prompts are provided for those who need something to get them starting speaking together
  • kids are included, as child care can be a barrier blocking participation
  • food, Food, FOOD!
Another cool thing they are doing at LFPL are cultural showcases, in which they invite members of a community to come present elements of their culture (such as dance, traditional dress, food, etc.) for the community at large. Sophie did point out, however, that this can be tricky. The library has found that they have approached some immigrant groups too soon and have found such a showcase to be very difficult for them. They have also found that there can be various perspectives and viewpoints within a culture which can lead to tension when they discuss that culture with the rest of the community. Other programs LFPL has put on for their community include a French Conversation Circle (specifically for African people who speak French), a Spanish Literary Salon, and a Qinceanera program.
The staff from Village branch of the Lexington Public Library, I must say, are some of the most dedicated and passionate individuals I have met in this field (I will be blogging about my experience at Village more later). In this session, they pointed out that for something like what they are doing there to work (completely bilingual staff and collection), they need the will and commitment of their institution to serving the Hispanic/Latino population. They pointed out that it is important to take risks; don't let perfect be the enemy of good! Maybe you'll try something that is a complete flop...this is the risk the institution must be willing to take to determine what will work! They emphasized the importance of all staff being friendly and approachable, making the extra effort to greet all customers as they walk in the door. Think about it in context: for most of us, the library by its very nature is a warm and welcoming place. For those who are not used to libraries in their own countries, the library is a place filled with uncertainty (what is this? who is it for? how does it work? am I allowed to be here?) and this makes it scary.
The programming the Village branch has developed for their community demonstrates what successful partnerships with community organizations can accomplish. For example, the local schools found that Hispanic parents were not attending parent/teacher conferences, so the library suggested that the teachers come to the library for conferences. Guess what...the parents came! They could walk to the library and felt safe there, and showed up in mass to learn how their kids were doing in school and how they could help them do better. Village also secured a grant for programming to help immigrants assimilate to life in the US and to prevent gang violence. They formed a variety of programs for teens with this grant, including an aikido class! Additionally, they bring speakers in from a variety of community organizations to provide "How to..." training for immigrants. Some speakers include bank representatives, officials from the Mexican consulate, and local police. What is the result of this? When the Village community needs information or wants entertainment, they go to the library to find it. Village is the only library I have ever seen that has actually accomplished becoming the Third Place.
How does this apply to CML:
  • What is the vision for services to immigrants in Columbus? What is the city's vision and how does the library fit into it?
  • We should be making contact with our local Refugee and Immigrant services organization to get a grasp of what the immigrant groups here need and how the library can contribute.
  • People want to learn English...what are we doing to meet this? English conversation groups require little to get off the ground and basically come to run themselves...
  • Would love to do some type of cultural showcase. Any branch doing anything like this?
  • Bringing in community representatives to talk to immigrants about how to assimilate (get a bank account, fill out school paperwork, etc.) is brilliant!!!! Are we even thinking about programming for adult communities anymore? Certainly, helping immigrants learn about the ins-and-outs of living in the US has an impact on young minds...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hispanic Heritage Month

Tonight in storytime we celebrated Hispanic Heritage month with folktales from Latin America, and it was muy divertido! With vacations and conference travel this month, I had not seen most of my regular kids in a while, so it was great to see them enjoy these stories. Of course, we opened with our regular cancion, "Hola Amigo" by Dr. Jean. Then we read Conejito, un cuento de Panama. This story takes a folktale and weaves in lyrics of a traditional song "Tia Monica" (check out Jose-Luis Orozco's version on Diez Deditos) for a cute story about a fat little rabbit who outsmarts un zorro (fox), un tigre (tiger) y un leon (lion). After that we danced with our deditos, pies, rodillas, caderas, manos, y cabezas to the tune of "Los ninos cuando bailan" from A bailar! = Let's Dance!

The icing on the storytime cake, however, came in the form of a beautiful brand-new flannel my very talented co-worker Andrew Dittmar made to tell the story of The Bossy Gallito = El gallo de bodas. Kids and parents both enjoyed this cumulative tale of a very bossy (and exquisite) little rooster! And of course, it's not really storytime unless we end with our goodbye song, "Adios amigos!"
This was a great program, lots of fun...feel free to steal it! I mean it! And share some ideas with me as well...what are you doing in your programs to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

National Diversity Conference - Details coming soon!

This past week I had the privilege to attend the National Diversity in Libraries conference in Louisville, KY (a million thanks Todd and Martha for agreeing to send me to this event!). I am coming back inspired and recharged, and my eyes have been opened to issues I was not quite in tune with, looking at the world through my own limited POV.

I have a lot of great information to share from this conference and it will be coming in bits and pieces. Blogging is not hard, it is just sometimes hard to find the time to keep up with it! So instead of laying everything out in one post, I'll be adding smaller posts about specific sessions. I feel the knowledge and networking gained at this conference will help me not only as a Spanish programmer, but also in my work on the CML Diversity Committee and the OLC Diversity Awareness and Resources committee.

I will share with you now the most brilliant and provacative thing I heard at the conference. Jose Aponte shared how his library system partnered with the San Diego health department to address two critical issues in the Latino community in San Diego: a lack of books and poor health conditions. How did they fight these problems to uplift the community? The library purchased a vehicle similar to the type of truck used for taquerias (mobile Mexican fast food restuarants) and turned it in to a bookmobile. They took this bookmobile out into the Latino communities equipped with bilingual staff and a clinic nurse! Let me say that again: they brought books and a nurse to the community on a familiar-looking (trustable) vehicle, with bilingual staffing!!!! This is an incredible and creative effort to truly change the lives of the community, and proof that this library knows their community and is invested in making an impact there!

Applying this to my position, I realize how much work I have to do. What are the needs of the Latino community in Columbus? What about in Whitehall specifically? How can CML creatively partner with other organizations serving the Latino community to avoid a duplication of effort and accomplish more with less?