Jennings Public Library, biblioteca pequeña, corazón grande
Jennings Public Library – biblioteca pequeña, corazón grande
Sandra Allen is the Librarian of the Jennings Public Library in Florida. Jennings is a small town but has a large percentage of Spanish-speakers. Rapid growth in the Spanish-speaking population has increased the need to assist Spanish speakers in recent years. Sandra and her staff are doing their part to help. By venturing outside the library to partner with local community organizations serving Spanish speakers they are involving more community members in library activities. MLIS student, Rebecca Paul, interviewed Sandra and asked her about the outreach activities her library has implemented since she attended a Spanish Language Outreach workshop in her state.
How would you describe your library and your community?
We are a small, rural library. In six years we have grown from a single part-time employee with an occasional helper to being able to employ five people. We received the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donation of four computers three years ago and we are currently undergoing the software update program.
We have a large Hispanic population-almost 25%- and it is continuing to grow. During the Spanish Language Outreach workshop, I was touched when the head of a local Migrant Center shared her personal story. Her children did not want to go to school because they did not know English so she would attend classes with them. She soon became an aide there and it was apparent how much her services were needed. She now heads up the Migrant Center here in Jennings.
Have you established any partnerships with the Hispanic Community?
The library and the Migrant Center are working closely together. I am currently working on a Read Program which takes place once a month. Right now we are focusing on the FCAT (the standardized school assessment). I am teaching both the parents and children about what the FCAT scores mean. We use lots of visuals and workbooks. In the future we would like to focus on writing and filling out forms, like immigration papers.
The Migrant Center puts out a newsletter in both English and Spanish and we will have library information in that soon. It spoke recently about how important it is for parents to help their children with reading; to turn off the television and curl up with a good book.
We have a few other partnerships. Our local college, Valdosta State University of Georgia, has supplied the library staff with conversational Spanish tapes. The Certified Court Translator has volunteered to teach some ESL classes. The community knows her well. The State Library is currently doing a train the tutor program and coming up soon there will be a how to tutor ESL speakers workshop. We also partner with the local Elementary School which is only one block away. The Youth Services director and I have programs designed for all the classes. There are field trips where the students can come to see the library and get a card. The parents then will come in and we explain the card guidelines. There is a large Spanish population in the school and we provide instructions in both Spanish and English.
What characteristics about the partnerships, do you feel, make them last?
I can’t stress enough how important it has been for the Spanish speaking population here to see me in the community. I encourage the staff to become involved in programs and get seen as well. I attend a Hispanic church every other Sunday. I am at the Migrant Center at least once a month. Many Hispanic community members seem to know me now and I have gained their trust. It is important to go to where Spanish speakers are. We have noticed a huge increase in Spanish speaking patrons. Half of the newly registered members this past year were Hispanic.
What other programs at your library are popular with Spanish speakers?
We use easy board books which are big books made out of cardboard. For example, one page will have a picture of an airplane and the word spelled in both English and Spanish. They are all common communication words as well as numbers. We notice adults using these tools as much as the kids. One of our computers is set up for Spanish speakers only. It is set to the Spanish language and we want it to be always available for them. Many community members come in to look for their home newspaper online. They tell us the name of the newspaper or the town they grew up in and we usually are able to help them find it. Also the Valdosta State College has volunteered to set up a van of computers in the parking lot on weekends with Spanish programs available.
Have you received support from your library administration?
Our director is very much behind us. I put in a lot of my own time but if we are able to give a detailed description of what we are doing and how that will benefit the library we might be compensated for the time spent.
Would you like to share anything else?
It brings me such joy to see all the small steps! Amazing progress is happening in the Jennings community and it is truly exciting to witness.
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