Round Lake Area Library- Ahead of the Outreach Curve
Round Lake Library - Ahead of the Outreach Curve
Elena Lara is the Hispanic Outreach Coordinator of the Round Lake Area library. She is managing a successful computer workshop program in Spanish, as well as reaching out to the Hispanic community in a variety of other ways. Recently MLIS student, Rebecca Paul asked Elena to share her insights about how her library is successfully engaging the Hispanic community of Round Lake.
How would you describe the community of Round Lake, Illinois?
The Round Lake Area includes five towns with an approximate population of 41,000 and approximately 45% of the population is of Hispanic background.
How many Spanish language computer workshops have you offered so far in 2005?
Approximately 32. We offer basic workshops which include an introduction to computers, learning to use a mouse, basic internet, MS Word, and E-mail.
What is the average number of participants in each workshop?
Our computer lab has space for 6 participants maximum.
How do you advertise your workshops?
We advertise the workshops through a variety of ways. We put up flyers and include the information in our bilingual newsletter. I personally go to local businesses to pass out flyers. I want the community to be familiar with my face and to learn about how I can assist them at the library. Word of mouth with partnerships is very important. We give information to organizations like ChildServ, Mano a Mano, and various ESL programs. This information gets dispersed back into the community. We also participate as an exhibitor at local and county events. In July, we partnered with other libraries to exhibit at the Lake County Fair, of which Round Lake was assigned to exhibit for a full day and had 1008 visitors!
Is the library administration supportive of this work?
Elizabeth Crane, Executive Director of the Round Lake Area Library, was named one of four trainers for the pilot program Spanish Language Outreach Program: Empowering Library Staff to Meet the Technology Needs of Spanish Speakers, funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. These workshops are an absolute necessity in the Round Lake area and administration fully supports them. The Hispanic community is requesting classes and materials and we must do what we can to provide these services. The majority of the advertisements and marketing pieces that I create for the library are in both English and Spanish.
What are the qualities of a successful computer workshop for Spanish speakers?
Getting the word out in the community is crucial. This year classes filled up within the first day of registration. The demand is high for these services. I try to build relationships up and gain the trust of the community. I want the participants to feel welcome and I make a point to inform them about all the services the library offers. During class, I pass out hand-outs in Spanish and try to get to hands-on experience as quickly as possible. I also incorporate English into the sessions. I feel it is important that they learn English computer vocabulary words since English is the most common language they will see on the screen.
In what ways do these workshops benefit the Hispanic participants?
A lot of parents want to help children with homework and research projects. Computer knowledge is becoming a necessity in our society. Participating moms want to be ready to help their children when they are older. Other participants are preparing for work outside of the home by learning basic computer skills. while others are learning to fill out employment applications on-line. Also, participants are very excited to learn about e-mail services. They are able to communicate with family and friends from home countries. Many participants did not realize that the library offered so many learning opportunities for free. During the next round of workshops we will offer an open lab time. I will be there to answer any questions they might have, and past participants will be able to practice the skills they have learned. I encourage them to come in and access our public computers to continue developing their computer skills. It is important to schedule workshops at various times of the day and week. This ensures that the majority of the community will be able to attend at least one session if they choose to.
What other offerings at the library are popular with Spanish speakers?
We offer library-sponsored family programs in Spanish such as storytimes, craft times, and movies in Spanish. They are becoming quite popular. Through a Family Literacy Grant awarded to the College of Lake County, the library is a literacy partner together with ChildServ of Lake County. Daycare is one of the most important programs that we are able to offer. The grant allows the college to provide classes to Lugar Para Madres (Moms Place), a support program in Spanish for mothers with infants, toddlers and pre-school age children, sponsored by ChildServ. The children learn and develop pre-literacy skills through structured childcare activities while the mothers participate in English as a Second Language classes. We also provide additional workshops in Spanish to the general community. The library partners with Mano a Mano Family Resource Center in Round Lake Park, IL who sponsors these programs. Community professionals such as lawyers, doctors, financial advisors, and nutritionists volunteer to give these presentations or workshops in Spanish. The library assists in promoting these programs by providing flyers to other groups that meet in the library and to the general public as well. Volunteer adults from the Center provide childcare during these programs. We also recently formed a new partnership. On November 5th, Youth & Family Counseling began a free bicultural program in Spanish for Latino parents. This is a 15-week series in which a psychologist facilitates the meetings. Parents will learn about how to achieve more satisfactory and productive relationships with their children. Volunteer adults will provide child care while parents attend meetings at the library.
You mentioned that the Round Lake Area Library has formed partnerships in the community with various groups. Do you think these partnerships are having an impact on the Hispanic community’s use of the library?
Yes, we see members of the Hispanic community in the library at all different times, attending various library-sponsored programs. Parents visiting the library with their children, become familiar with our services, and are more likely to visit on a regular basis. The library has approximately 10,000 items in our Spanish collection. We are currently in the process of aggressively expanding our adult and children's Spanish collection. We've made available a brief survey in Spanish to elicit feedback from our Spanish-speaking patrons.
What attributes, do you believe, are necessary in making a library successful in reaching the Hispanic community?
Spanish fluency has allowed me to communicate with so many of our patrons in regards to their needs. We also have several bilingual staff available to assist patrons. I believe our programs have been successful because of the networking factor. The library and its partners have a common goal of providing resources to our culturally diverse community so that they can make informed choices, be able to integrate into the community with more ease, and make informed choices, be able to integrate into the community with more ease, and make learning a life-long process.
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