03/09/07 — Library seeks grant to attract more Hispanic patrons

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Library seeks grant to attract more Hispanic patrons

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 9, 2007 1:48 PM

The Wayne County Public Library is seeking a $150,000 grant to help Hispanic residents improve their grasp of English.

Donna Phillips, assistant library director at the Wayne County Public Library, said the library has applied for the grant to help overcome language and other barriers to library use among Hispanics. Included in the application she submitted in February are letters of support from Goldsboro Milling and Butterball Turkeys. The businesses employ hundreds of Hispanic workers. About 90 percent of Hispanic adults in Wayne County have less than five years formal education, and that is mostly in their native language, a study group has learned.

"They knew it would help their employees," Mrs. Phillips said.

The process started last June when the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded a $6,263 project planning grant to the library through the Library Services Technology Act.

The State Library of North Carolina administers the grants, and it was the state that notified Mrs. Phillips that the library had been awarded the first grant. She will find out in June if the library is awarded the second, larger grant.

Mrs. Phillips used the money from the first grant to hire a consultant who worked with staff and several community people to find out what the Hispanic community needs. Serving on the advisory committee that helped with the study were people like Gaspar Gonzalez and Willie Cartegena with the Latino Council, Maria Carpenter and Maria Ochoa with WAGES, Carlos Cotto with Wayne Community College, Michelle Estrada with Parents as Teachers, Esmelda Santos with the Partnership for Children and Hope Meyerhoffer with the Wayne County Public Schools. Six focus groups in the Hispanic community also provided input.

"It was a wonderful learning experience for me to have all those people around the table who are already doing an outstanding job serving Latinos," Mrs. Phillips said.

The statewide demographic reports is noteworthy. A report by FaithAction said Wayne County has seen a 442 percent increase in the Hispanic population since 1990. That is higher than the state average, Mrs. Phillips noted.

The study group also learned that 1,957 Hispanic students were enrolled in the local public school system as of Jan. 2, 2007.

"That is a staggering 10.5 percent of the total school population," Mrs. Phillips said. "They're here, and they have information needs."

The study ended with the formation of a plan that was presented in the grant application. If Wayne's application is approved, the grant would be used to buy books to help bridge the language barrier and to hire translators to work with Spanish-speaking patrons.

Mrs. Phillips said translators need to know more than just how to speak Spanish. She said they would need to understand the culture, too. For example, she said, when children come to story time now, a child usually is accompanied by a single parent. But when a Hispanic child comes, the entire family comes, too.

"Traditionally, libraries are for well-educated Latinos, not the general population," she said, adding that some Hispanic patrons have been surprised when they learned they didn't have to buy the books.