07/15/07 — Library to get $50,000 grant for Hispanics

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Library to get $50,000 grant for Hispanics

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on July 15, 2007 2:00 AM

The state has approved a $50,000 grant for the Wayne County Public Library to begin its first year of outreach to help Hispanic residents improve their grasp of English.

The grant comes from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. The State Library of North Carolina administers the grants. Subject to availability of funds, a second- and third-year grant of $50,000 will follow.

On Friday morning, Assistant Library Director Donna Phillips was waiting for the contract to arrive. She applied for the grant in February to help overcome language and other barriers to library use among Hispanic patrons. But the process really started in June 2006 when the state notified her the library would receive a planning grant from the from the Library Services Technology Act.

During the process of identifying needs in the community, a study group found out that about 90 percent of Hispanic adults in Wayne County have less than five years formal education, and that is mostly in their native language.

As soon as the contract arrives, Ms. Phillips will find a full-time project coordinator and a part-time library assistant to work at the Seven Springs branch of the library. Both will be bilingual, she said.

Wayne Community College has offered to provide English as a Second Language classes at the library in Seven Springs.

The project involves providing bilingual homework help for students and their parents. Computer software and a few more computers will get an English learning lab started so patrons can study more independently than in the classroom situation.

"We'll add to our small collection of books in the Spanish language," she said.

Cultural heritage activities was another thing the teenagers from Spring Creek High School had told the planning group they missed. Ms. Phillips hopes to be able to provide at least one traditional cultural celebration every quarter.

Library Director Jane Rustin said the study group has invited the teenagers to establish a Teen Advisory Committee for the outreach project.

"It came up during the planning process. This was our best focus group, and they were very open to the idea of doing it on a permanent basis," she said. "They also offered to volunteer at the library with the homework and help with the story-time program."

The study group found out there's a great need for health information, and the Health Department has offered to help provide that.

The little ones also need books, the Ms. Phillips said those will probably be delivered to the children's homes.

Ms. Rustin said the long-term goal is to get the children and their parents comfortable with the idea of coming to the library.

And throughout the time of the outreach project, the Seven Springs Library will continue to provide its traditional library services, she said.

Ms. Rustin said the county government has already committed to provide a 10 percent, or $5,000, match the first year of the Hispanic outreach project. The local portion for the second year would be 25 percent, and the final match would be 50 percent.

"When the project period is over and we do the evaluation, we hope to work it into our regular budget," she said. "We'll find the funding (to continue) through our own budget."