Outreach to Spanish-speaking and Latino Communities: Crossroads Poll Results

Erin M. Schadt /

In May of 2016, we asked library staff in our monthly Crossroads poll what their libraries are doing in the area of outreach to Spanish-speaking and Latino communities.

Of the 37 library staff who responded, the majority have explored many different ways to serve patrons who are Latino or who speak Spanish. Hosting events that celebrate Latino heritage or culture received the greatest response with 29 libraries. Close behind were collaborating with community partners, providing bilingual storytimes, and providing technology instruction/classes in Spanish. Twenty four libraries responded that they have explored recruiting Latino or Spanish-speaking staff and volunteers.

The types of programs libraries offer are varied and include conversation circles, book clubs in Spanish, a bilingual knitting and crocheting group, English classes, citizenship classes and outreach at local events.

We also asked about barriers that libraries have or continue to face in their efforts to reach out. The most common barrier voiced was lack of Spanish language skills and cultural competency. The challenge of how to reach people who currently don’t use the library, and overcoming perceived resistance and hesitation to use the library was also shared by many respondents.

Other responses include push back from current patrons, awareness of the library, reaching parents and transportation issues.

We also asked what it would be helpful to know or learn about in order to serve Latino or Spanish-speaking families/communities. One person put it succinctly, "How to serve such a diverse group without insulting their intelligence." Another person summed up many responses with "how to make connections and contacts in the community when coming across the cultural/language barrier." Others asked for best practices, how to let these communities know about library programs, sources of Spanish-language materials, training on bilingual storytimes for people who only speak a little Spanish, how smaller communities with limited resources can better serve these communities and information on the library culture in Central America.

At WebJunction, we have some resources currently and are working to build on these.

In July of 2016, we hosted a free webinar Before Bilingual Storytime: The Outreach Bridge to Engaging Latino and Spanish-speaking Families. This webinar explored what to do before launching programs for Latino and Spanish-speaking communities. The webinar presented strategies for library outreach to and engagement with these varied communities, laying the groundwork for successful programming. Presenters shared real-world examples of outreach strategies from librarians who successfully connected with their Latino and Spanish-speaking communities and a basic outreach process that you can adapt for your own community.

You can also explore the Spanish Speakers section of our website, which has many links to oodles more resources.

Photo: Storytime at the Mission Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Learn more about this branch's work on WebJunction.