My research topic is “Spanish-language access throughout the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative.” What this title means and what I’m here to talk about is attempting to measure the level of monolingual Spanish access provided to the Spanish-language resources within our public libraries, specifically those libraries within Hillsborough County
Access, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is defined as the “freedom or ability to obtain and make use of” something or someone (Gove et al., 1976).
To make a long story short, public libraries provide ACCESS to books and other things, to people regardless of creed, race, or ethnicity. But what about to people who speak a different language?
Currently, it is estimated that out of the 45.5 million Hispanics in the United States today, roughly 78% speaks and reads in Spanish; out of this population approximately 7.8% of Hispanics belong to “linguistically isolated households”- families in which all persons over the age of 14 has at least some difficulty with English or cannot speak English at all (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). By July 1, 2050 the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the Hispanic and Latino population of the United States will reach 132.8 million, constituting at that time approximately 30% of the nation’s total population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). Mathematically that’s a whole lot of people who don’t speak or read in English. It is to these Hispanic patrons that the majority of Spanish-language library services and resources are of most benefit; however, not a whole lot of research has been done on how exactly libraries are providing access to these materials. In fact there’s not a lot of research on anything.
On the subject of Spanish-language access to information the only pertinent publications available, report on subject-heading language and control of electronic catalogs (Cabello-Argandoña, Crary, &Pisano, 1982; Creider, 2003; Jensen, 2001). However, when investigating the methodology and modes of access provided to Spanish-speaking patrons within the library setting there is an absence of research data entirely. To address this deficit I choose to formulate a research proposal that attempts to define the modes through which Spanish-speaking patrons can access these resources and evaluate the quality of access that these modes provide within Hillsborough County library system.
“ Good signs,” they note can “help users move throughout the buildings more efficiently” while increasing accuracy in material retrieval (Bosman & Ruisek, 1997, p. 81). On the other hand bad signs, according to Bitner (1992) can create emotional distress and confusion in the customer/patron &quot;directly inhibiting the accomplishment of the [patron’s] goal;” which in this case would be the retrieval of the library’s materials and information (p. 61).
Positive cues such as a nod or a smile will positively influence the customer’s satisfaction level, while negative cues such as avoiding eye-contact will have a negative influence (Rosenbaum & Montoya, 2007). According to Rosenbaum and Montoya Hispanic customers “patronize establishments not only for the products and services” provided but “also for the feeling of verbal and nonverbal comfort they receive” from the staff (p. 213).
Likewise, a library webportal review conducted by Shapiro (2003) left the researcher surprised about the number of library “home pages of many very large library systems serving extensive Latino populations [that] do not have an immediately visible option available for Spanish-language access” (p.18). These deficits in Spanish-language digital access to information Jensen (2001) notes creates a paradox, as the “library’s collection acknowledges that not all readers use the same language” while the “structure of its catalog [and webportal] assumes, indeed demands, knowledge of English” (¶6).
Donde están los libros? Spanish-language resource access throughout the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative
According to Rubin (2004) public libraries have a “historic mission” to “satisfy the interest in reading and learning for all ages” through the provision of books; and as technology developed movies, music, and computers.
Secondary to this mission is the duty of public libraries “to furnish fuel for the fires beneath the great melting pot” that is America (Roberts, 1912, p.169 as cited in Rubin, 2004, p. 293).
While at the same time “provide services to ethnic groups and recognize that each group has a literary and cultural tradition worth preserving and transmitting” (Rubin, 2004, p. 293).
An individual’s library use “should not be denied or abridged because of his race, religion, national origins, or political views” – ALA, 1961, Library Bill of Rights
Winston and Walstad (2006) surveyed the past 10 years of Latino library literature they concluded that there was a “noticeable absence of research data” including a “lack of national survey data about the services provided by libraries to Latinos [and] a paucity of publications about Latinos and libraries in general” (p. 395).
On the subject of Spanish-language access to information the only pertinent publications available report on subject-heading language and control of electronic catalogs (Cabello-Argandoña, Crary, &Pisano, 1982; Creider, 2003; Jensen, 2001).
However, when investigating the methodology and modes of access provided to Spanish-speaking patrons within the library setting there is an absence of research data entirely.
Boyd (1993) noted that with the inclusion of bilingual text on library signs the patron’s perspective of the library’s “friendliness” increased, while the “need to ask for directions and understanding [italics added] the responses diminishes” thusly decreasing the patron’s anxiety (p. 63). In 2006 Fowler, Wesley, and Vazquez recorded that signs in both English and Spanish contribute to inspiring a “sense of acceptance” in Hispanic customers who frequent facilities that utilize “Spanish in advertising and signs” (p. 51). Peter R. van Allen (1984) wrote “an institution’s voice” is indicated to the user “through its signing,” a good library sign system should and “can communicate the intentions, the spirit, and the theme of a library as well as directions” (p. 106). In his research on servicescapes Bitner (1992) wrote that environmental settings are particularly influential in contributing to the “degree of success consumer’s experience in executing their plans once inside” (p. 61). Marquis (2003) recommends arranging the Spanish-language materials in areas of “high visibility,” preferably within their own section so that “new users unfamiliar with United States library organizations” feel comfortable shelf-browsing (p. 174).
“ When you say “Hola” to me when I come to the library, it makes me feel good, and then I want to be there. Even if that is all the words we share, that is OK. You reach out to me and I am happy.” - Yolanda Vega Library user, Advocate, and Volunteer The Importance of Personable Persons.
Providing services to limited English speakers can be a real challenge for retailers and libraries alike. Fowler et al. (2007) notes that while the ideal is having a “bilingual associate” in the library to assist patrons, that just by having a “friendly associate who smiles and attempts to help even while speaking English” contributes to a positive atmosphere that welcomes the patron (p. 58).
Successful communication is the key when performing a reference interview; however when the patron is of limited-English speaking capabilities communication often times becomes anything but successful.
To meet the ultimate goal of assisting and answering a limited-English speaking patron’s questions, Pyati (2003) recommends:
Upon conducting an inspection of “some 100 public library and school library catalogs throughout the United States and Canada, including those of the biggest cities and several regions with large Spanish-speaking populations” Jensen found three major problems with electronic Spanish catalogs:
when the summary notes in the Marc 500 or 520 fields contained any text it was almost always in English
when the English version of the book mentioned an item contained within that copy such as a bibliography or an index, the Spanish version of the book contained nothing at all
the cataloger has omitted or misused the accent marks and misspelled the title of the work- an error which can lead to confusion and occasionally offense (Jensen, 2001).11)
Minkle (2001) “little evidence of services to Spanish speakers” on the websites themselves (p. 36). Shapiro (2003) “the home pages of many very large library systems serving extensive Latino populations do not have an immediately visible option available for Spanish-language access” (p.18). These deficits in Spanish-language digital access to information Jensen (2001) notes creates a paradox , as the : “ library’s collection acknowledges that not all readers use the same language” while the “structure of its catalog [and webportal] assumes, indeed demands, knowledge of English” (¶6).
Good: A Spanish-language page that is easily found. The link is immediately visible and identifiable. The pages presented contain useful information and possess clarity of layout and purpose. A majority of the links take the user to pages in Spanish, with only a few linking to English only websites.
Fair: A Spanish-language page that could be linked more directly or intuitively. This page (or pages) presented useful information but information is harder to locate because of the poor placement. Informational links often take the user to Spanish webpages, however many of them link to English pages.
Mediocre : This Spanish-language page was hard to find. The link was poorly placed in a non-intuitive and not easily identifiable location. The pages had very little useful information and were extremely unorganized.
Poor : The Spanish-language page was very hard to find. Contains nothing more than the bare minimum of information. Webpage links often “dead-end” onto English language pages.
No Spanish-language or service page evident (Power & LeBeau, 2009, p. 59).
American Library Association. (2008). How to serve the world @ your library: Serving non-English speakers in U.S. public libraries. Retrieved March 10, 2009 from ALA.org at: http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/olos/toolkits/LI_toolkit.pdf
Boyd, Debra R. Creating Signs for Multicultural Patrons. In Karen Parrish & Bill Katz (Ed.), Multicultural Acquisitions. (p. 61-66). Haworth Press.
Jensen, Bruce. (2001) The monolingual cataloging monolith: A barrier to access for readers of Spanish. Retrieved February 1, 2009 from Spanish in Our Libraries Web site: http://www.sol-plus.net/plus/cataloging.htm
Shapiro, Micheal. (2003). Developing virtual Spanish-language resources: Exploring a best practices model for public libraries. OLA Quarterly, 9(2), p. 15-19. Retrieved March 10, 2009 via Open Access E-Journals.
U.S. Census Bureau (2005-2007). Linguistic Isolation. Retrieved March 25, 2009.
U.S. Census Bureau (2005-2007). Hillsborough County ACS Demographic Estimates. Retrieved March 25, 2009.
Winston, Mark D. Walstad, Kimberly. (2006). Recruitment and diversity: A research study of bilingualism and library services. Library & Information Science Research, 28(3), p. 390-406. Retrieved March 13, 2009 from Wilson OmniFile FT Mega Edition.