The Santa Barbara Public Library has launched an initiative to help assess how it can improve services to better meet the needs of the Spanish-speaking community. The Spanish Outreach Team has been collaborating with local organizations to assess what services will be most beneficial.
“Over the past several years, the Library has prioritized hiring additional Spanish-speaking staff when we’ve had vacant positions, and it has greatly improved the amount of Spanish-speaking programs the Library is able to provide as well as our ability to provide day-to-day services in Spanish, which has in turn brought more of our Spanish-speaking community members into the Library,” said Library Director Jessica Cadiente.
But in a community where nearly 40% of the population speaks Spanish, the Library knew there were still people not aware of Library services and that they are funded by local government and grants and are free to community members. To help spread the word about Library services, the Library’s Spanish Outreach Team has visited targeted locations around the community to promote library resources, has developed a newsletter and Facebook page in Spanish, created a dedicated Library phone line for Spanish speakers, and reviews and translates essential Library information into Spanish.
Community members are borrowing more and more Spanish-language titles and the library has doubled the amount of programming available in Spanish between 2018 and 2021, despite the challenges of the pandemic. In fact, a series of virtual classes on early literacy, nutrition for children, and other topics of interest to parents and caregivers offered separately in English and Spanish had more participants in Spanish-language class.
Eric Castro, a Senior Library Technician who works on the Spanish Outreach Team called it one of the most rewarding experiences of his career. “We’ve been able to expand services to our Spanish-speaking community by developing a culturally aware Spanish language book collection. Now we’re collaborating with our Spanish-speaking community to implement innovative and comprehensive library programs that impact their lives through our workforce development programs, computer classes, and celebrating their culture by hosting international music concerts and art exhibits.”
The Library has already been proactive in meeting the needs of its diverse community of patrons through programs such as:
Upgrading the catalog with a new system called Aspen, which makes it easier to browse categories, offers a user-friendly interface, and can be easily translated into Spanish as well as four other languages, with more languages to be added.
Launching the Library on the Go van, which brings collections, services, programs, and staff to sites throughout the greater Santa Barbara area, including parks, low-income housing sites, immigrant program providers, and senior living facilities.
Expanding classes and programs like the Adult Literacy program; the virtual Spanish Book Club; the OG Reader Tutoring Program for grades 1-4; free virtual learning course for caregivers; and the Library Innovation Lab, which resulted in the formulation of the Hispanic Heritage Month programming funded by a California Humanities Grant.
The next step for the Spanish Outreach Team is to get a sense of how the pandemic continues to impact people’s day-to-day lives.
“As the pandemic has changed our community in a multitude of ways, we know it’s more important than ever to engage with the community to see how the Library can best serve their needs. We’re fortunate to have this dedicated group of bilingual staff to ensure the Spanish-speaking community’s voice is heard,” said Cadiente.
The Spanish Outreach Team is encouraging community members to share their aspirations for the future and how the Library can best serve their needs. Access the survey here in English or Spanish.
Spanish survey: SBPLibrary.org/preguntasespanol
English survey: SBPLibrary.org/CommunityNeeds
The Library will continue to meet with partner organizations, hold focus groups, and will even be surveying community members at sites around town to try to capture the input of people who don’t regularly visit the Library and might not be aware of all the Library offers.
To get involved and help the Spanish Outreach Team shape the Library’s Spanish-language programming email: Emendez@SantaBarbaraCA.gov