A collection for a growing Latino population

I received an assignment to develop a collection for a public library with a growing Latino population. The parameters:

Because there had only been a tiny number of Spanish-speaking patrons in your library to this point you have almost nothing in your collection appropriate for your new patrons. Likewise, because there had been almost no Hispanic patrons in your library, there was almost nothing in your collection representing Hispanic ethnicities or authored from an Hispanic perspective.

The new patrons are about half children and young adults, almost all of whom are in school. They are almost all bilingual, though Spanish is their first language. Working-age adults constitute most of the remainder. Some are bilingual, others speak only a little English. The rest are older adults, almost all of whom speak very little English. The adults have had some formal schooling, though only a tiny portion have a full secondary education or anything beyond. Literacy rates (in Spanish) among adults is quite high.

You have been authorized by your supervisor to use $500 of this year’s collection development budget and $250 in ongoing funds (i.e., yearly expenses extending indefinitely) to expand your collection to help meet the needs of your new patrons.

Here is my attempt to address the situation:

  1. a spreadsheet with my choices of materials
  2. pie and bar graphs showing the proportions and costs of the materials

And here is my explanation/rationale…


In order to develop a collection of library materials that would meet the needs of a growing Latino community, I divided my search into several themes: materials that maintain a connection to the Latin American world, materials that support early-childhood reading activities, multicultural material for bilingual youth and materials that address specific adult educational needs. I wanted to be sure to provide services to the Latino community that they may not be able to afford on their own or that could be used for programming to draw these families in. I specifically thought about having the appropriate resources to begin a bilingual or Spanish story-hour. I also wanted to secure cable television access to channels like Univision and Telemundo, so that families could watch soccer matches, telenovelas (soap operas) and Latin American movies in a common, social place like the library.

Because this is a collection for a public library in a community that is still adjusting to the population shift, I wanted the materials I got in English to be useful for both Latino patrons and white patrons. I choose some books that could give Anglo patrons a better understanding of the Latino experience and culture and promote tolerance.


To decide on a focus for what types of resources to look for, I asked for input from my Latino high school students. I also discussed the topic with the librarian at my school who is always working to improve our Spanish-language and multicultural collection.

As a starting point for children’s literature, I used lists of awards such as the “Pura Belpré Award” and the “Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature.” I also accessed resources from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, like their Choices 2012 publication and their “50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know” and “30 Multicultural Books Every Teen Should Know” booklists. I used Follett’s Titlewave website to get information about reading and interest levels on some of the children’s books. Customer reviews and popularity rankings on Amazon.com sometimes were helpful as a starting point to find what Spanish-speakers are reading. This wasn’t a perfect solution though, just because the “sample size” of customers publishing reviews on Spanish language books tends to be smaller than on English books. Fortunately, I do speak Spanish pretty well; otherwise, some of the descriptions would have been a barrier for me trying to figure out what to select.

When I was looking for magazines, I looked for circulation information and “top 10 lists” of Latino magazines. Ratings by HispanicMagazineMonitor published on the Media Economics Group blog were helpful. AllYouCanRead.com pointed me to a few ideas for magazines as well. There weren’t a lot of choices for men’s magazines unfortunately (unless they involved scarcely-clothed women), so most of the magazine subscriptions were for women.

In order to get more information about Latino cable television packages, I called Charter Communications and talked to a representative in the Charter Business department. He helped me draw up the pricing for a cable package at the library that includes 25 channels, ranging from Disney to ESPN Deportes to CNN en Español.

Other Considerations and Values

For the younger children, I decided that it would be best to get children’s books mostly written in Spanish, so that parents could read with them. Young readers would have also access to beginning-level texts in their native language, thus promoting bilingual literacy. I focused on tween and young adult books written in English with Latino multicultural themes. In my experience, Latino teenagers prefer to read young adult literature in English, unless their English proficiency is weak—then they either won’t read or they prefer reading in Spanish. Not surprisingly, they identify more with characters from their own national background (as opposed to exploring the experiences of Latinos from other countries.) They like stories about immigrant experiences or Latino issues (e.g. racism, gangs, poverty, etc.) set in the United States.

For the adults, I mostly searched for Spanish language materials, but I tried to focus on lighter topics, like pop culture and family. I looked for popular magazine subscriptions that would appeal to both men and women. Even though the adults do read well in Spanish, I thought the money was better spent on enhancing their entertainment and family life. Factory shifts are often long and grueling and many of the Latino parents that I know work opposite shifts so that someone can be home for the children at all times. If they are trying to balance time between work and family, I would assume that they are less likely to want to sit down with a novel than to grab a magazine or check out the soccer game on Telemundo in the library lounge. Also, considering the education levels of many of the adults, I chose a GED prep book in Spanish that could be very useful for those who never completed high school.

I chose to use Amazon.com as my primary source for purchasing and pricing, mostly because they currently have the largest Spanish language collection of books, movies, music and magazines all in one spot and free shipping if you purchase in volume, which the library would do. I chose library binding and hardcover books whenever possible, in order to prolong the life of the collection. The prices listed in the spreadsheet are publisher list-price, so someone replicating my plan would not necessarily have to purchase through Amazon.com.

Because this is a budding collection in a library that essentially had not Spanish-language resources before, I thought it was most important to build a foundation of print materials, before seeking movies or music. Also, because children’s books are quick to read, it seemed important to have a ready supply. I had to sacrifice a few reference materials for the adults, such as picture dictionaries and ESL materials, in favor of a well-developed bilingual children’s collection. This children’s collection would be used by both the children and the parents, since the parents could read to their children as a family activity.

Unanswered Questions

It would have been useful for me to know more about the nationalities of these Latinos. Because I didn’t know if they are originally be from Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Columbia, Honduras, Cuba, Guatemala, etc., it was hard to target books that they would identify with.

I also assumed that most of the Latinos world be Christian and Catholic, but without knowing for sure, it may have been presumptuous of me to subscribe to the Magnificat religious publication or buy the Bible storybook.

I wasn’t sure what kind of technology resources this library had at its disposal either. I calculated the price of the Latino View cable package as an add-on and assumed that the library already maintained basic monthly cable access. I also assumed that the library had some kind of station that digital magazine issues could be accessed. Without knowing for sure though, these resources may have been wasted.