The Hispanic population in the United States has reached nearly 58 million in 2016, 18% of the nation’s population and was the second-largest racial or ethnic group. They are drawn from an increasingly diverse mix of countries; 63.2% Mexican origin, 9.5% Puerto Rican, 3.8% Salvadoran, 3.9% Cuban, 3.3% Dominican and 2.5% Guatemalan. In 2015, more than 37 million Latinos ages 5 and older in the U.S. speak Spanish at home, making it the country’s most common non-English language.

This project addressed a significant challenge faced by front-line librarians and library support staff in an increasingly multicultural and multilingual society we live in. How do we communicate with and provide desired services to our communities when substantial portions of our residents do not speak English? How do we develop engagements that are culturally responsive and effective?

This two-year project developed and delivered online modules and in-person training for 350 Spanish speaking bilingual library professionals in New Jersey, Queens, New York, Connecticut and California. The project ultimately aimed to strengthen public libraries in meeting the needs of its Spanish-speaking communities by means of training bilingual front-line librarians and library support staff to communicate effectively with non-English speaking patrons.

Through a multi-faceted collaboration supported by an IMLS grant and led by the New Jersey State Library we worked with the Hartford Public Library, the Queens Public Library, Infopeople, califa, Reforma, Language Link and ALA to develop training for libraries in public libraries virtually and in person. We saw public library colleagues develop confidence and skills in translation and interpretation that will stay with them for years to come!