Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hispanic readers, immigration issues, and libraries

Libraries continue to provide a great service and are wonderful resources to immigrants. Librarians agree that they should continue to provide – or start providing – the tools to address the issues immigrants care about (citizenship, he
alth, education, parenting, business development, and many others). From the site El Libro y Su Mundo, here's part of a post that emphasizes the importance of libraries for all immigrants who need to use these resources in many ways.

Loida Garcia-Ceba asks on her blog how librarians are serving the Latino population. She points out that libraries should continue “trying to figure out how to address topics such as immigration, health, and education, to mention a few,” through their services. This should be done in an inclusive way to “involve publishers, distributors, scholars and professional associations.” (A recent) poll by Library Journal that showcases how immigration is driving changes in the collections and services of the library. Furthermore, according to earlier polls, immigration continues to be a divisive issue in the community. These are some of the findings from past polls (from newest to oldest):

56% of librarians polled believed that immigration is driving changes in the collections and services of the library.
78% believe that immigration is a divisive issue in their community.
71% believe that their library board is getting more political.

60% believe that the library understands the community agenda although only 26% of libraries have an active role on it.
78% believe that their library does not work to solve community issues.
52% measure their library's impact
in the community.

91% believe that their library is more concerned with outreach to the community as opposed to stewardship of the collection.
57% consistently reach out to new groups of patrons.
55% do not believe that their library’s leaders are visible in the community.
55% believe that their library’s mission is tightly woven to the needs of the community.

There are many things that can be discerned from these unscientific, yet just as valid, opinion polls. One thing seems certain: librarians care about their communities and immigration is slowly making its way into the conversation.

Still, according to a 2008 Pew research poll only 13% of respondents use the library to find information about solving their problems. True, that poll dealt mostly with issues that are connected to government agencies, did not focus specifically in the immigrant or Latino population, and did not include other reasons why people use the library. Yet it shows that libraries have a great way to go to regain their place as information sources and helping their community solve their problems.

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