Even in these technology-driven times, Georgia libraries offer a variety of useful services to Latinos.
According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2013, while Hispanics are less likely compared with other ethnic groups to have visited a library, they stand out as holding a higher degree of appreciation for the services these institutions offer.
From free books to computer usage, libraries are the ideal space to utilize resources and study, as they tend to provide quiet, safe environments for patrons. Furthermore, the survey shows that, compared with other groups, Hispanics are more prone to say that the closing of a community library would have a major impact on their family.
There are approximately 283 libraries in Georgia, according to the Georgia Public Library Service. The majority of them offer services to the immigrant community.
“We have programs for children, adolescents, and adults. From story time, to technology classes for adults; movies; music; books; and even resources that can be downloaded from our electronic library,” explained Claudia Strange, spokesperson for the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, which is comprised of 34 library centers.
Last year, some four million people visited the libraries within this system. It is difficult to pinpoint, however, how many of these individuals were Latinos.
“I don’t have numbers, but I have seen how [visitation by] the Latino community has grown lately, for example, at story time,” she said.
For Strange, who is of Cuban and Peruvian descent, there is still much that can be done for the Latino community.
“I’m concerned about the children in our community; that they don’t know about the tools that are available. If the parents don’t know about them, neither do the children,” lamented Strange.
According to Elena Barrio, branch manager of the Chamblee Library, the Latino community has other concerns.
“When people come, they’re afraid to ask for a library card. Maybe it’s because the political climate is a little strange. So they’re somewhat afraid to fill out the information for the card,” she said. “But we want them to feel that this is a safe place. I would like for them to be able to come more.”
Sondra Warren, who also works at the Chamblee library, has collaborated on an initiative called ‘Prime Time Programing,” that unites Latino families through a series that meets every Tuesday for breakfast, reading and roundtable discussions about literature.
According to Warren, approximately 50 percent of the people who utilize this library are Latinos. So English classes are offered as well as ‘Café Internacional,’ another initiative designed to integrate the community.
Gwinnett County is also making strides to reach out to the Hispanic community.
“We have 50 libraries and hundreds of programs through which we aim to serve the entire community,” explained Clifford Ibarrondo, marketing and communications manager at Gwinnett County Public Library.
“We’ve seen that the number of Latino visitors and members has grown the last few years. Not just children or adolescents, but also parents,” added Yhoselin González, who works in programming for GCPL. “We get a lot of Latino families who use our computers and participate in our English conversation classes. We also offer legal assistance and citizenship classes.”
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CONTINUED COVERAGEEach Saturday look for a feature story from our media partners at Mundo Hispanico that highlights an aspect of the Hispanic community. For a closer look at its content, go to www.mundohispanico.com or contact editors and reporters directly at 404-881-0441.