Libraries and the Holidays: Serving Spanish-Speaking Patrons

As we are approaching the Christmas holiday season, it is a wonderful time to remind Spanish-speaking patrons of all the services and events their local library offers them. Christmas is a cherished time for most Latinos, full of traditions, memories and social events. It is a time when families get together to share meals, prayers, songs, and love. As many Spanish-speaking families are stretched through different countries, this is not always possible. Furthermore, the traditions that they may have learned through their parents and grandparents are not always present in the communities where they are now. But they can be found at the library.

Libraries have a special role during the holidays in serving their Spanish-speaking patrons. Libraries connect them with their loved ones in far away places and bring them closer to their traditions. We have compiled some of the ways in which libraries are serving these communities which your library could do as well.

1. Chat and Messaging Services: Let patrons know that they can use the library computers to bring their families closer even when they are countries apart. You may have a reservation system through which they can sign up at specific times to chat with their families. Hand out flyers at the library and local gathering places with instructions about how to do this. If library policy permits it your patrons may use video-conferencing or internet VOIP through Skype, Yahoo, MSN or any other service. Many times, these are free or at a very low cost per call.

2. Storytimes and Family Events: Children will be out of school soon and parents looking for activities for them to do. Many libraries already have Spanish-language storytime once or twice a month. This may be an opportunity to have them more often and include other types of events for kids. Magicians, clowns, science educators, and others are all too happy to perform at the library, even for free, as it serves as a great referral service. During storytime choose books that reflect the season and the culture of your Spanish-speaking communities. You may also enlist the help of non-profits and community-based organizations to teach children, and accompanying adults, regarding local and foreign traditions, history, parenting, and even safety issues during the holidays.

3. Special Library Collections: With more free time for the children, and also their parents, there are many more opportunities to grab a great book or movie to enjoy the leisure time. Set up a special display for a collection of books and other media for children and adults, emphasizing the season and traditions. These may be:

– Stories about Christmas and the holidays (such as A Christmas Carol or Skipping Christmas).

– Religious books that bring us closer to the spirituality of the season (such as Jesus of Nazareth or a Children’s Bible).

– Parenting books to take advantage of the extra time with the kids (such as How to Talk to your Baby or Mothers and Daughters).

– Cooking books for those traditional – and no to so traditional – meals (such as Setting Up the Table and baking Bread or Desserts).

– Books that help us with the chores and long-delayed projects around the house (such as Candle Making, Flower Arrangements or Repairing the PC and just about Anything)..

– Books to support our New Year resolutions (such as Losing Weight, Getting to Know Yourself, Confronting Abuse, or Launching your Internet Business).

– Or the movies that we enjoy year after year (such Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, It’s A Wonderful Life, or the Nightmare Before Christmas) that come dubbed or subtitled into Spanish.

4. Carols and Posadas: The air around this time of the year fills with songs of the holidays from different cultures, languages and traditions. What better way to bring people into the library than hosting an international carol night. Invite the different organizations comprising the major – and not so major – ethnic communities your library serves, so that they can showcase their rich holiday traditions with the songs that are dear to their hearts. Many of the local groups will be already preparing their own events, so you can invite them for a special nigh at the library where they also could promote their services to the community.

5. News and Stories: Local Spanish-language media companies (radio, TV and newspapers) will be looking for special stories during this season. Make sure to involve them in the process and invite the reporters to these events. In turn they may give you free advertising and a way to connect to your patrons. Also, you can have contest, together with the media outlets, for your patrons to showcase their talent and talk about their rich holiday traditions and what this season means to them.

Libraries all around the nation have been doing things like these for years, uniting the communities they serve during this and other holiday seasons. We hope yours become a beacon of light for the Spanish-speaking patrons of your community. And if you need more ideas or titles for these months, please do not hesitate to contact us. We’ll let you know what your peer librarians are doing to attract and serve Spanish-speaking patrons.

Thank you and enjoy the holidays.

Sus amigos @ SBD

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