Three participants at Richland Library’s Hispanic open-mic night on Sept. 28 (Photo courtesy of Richland Library)
Richland County libraries regularly connect with Hispanic communities year-round through services, programs and literature.
It’s a feature the libraries have offered for more than five years now.
“One of the things Richland Library is known for is their innovation and inclusion,” Hispanic and Latino Coordinator Mayte Nicholas Velasco said. “We regularly have special services like translators to help people who can’t speak English.”
Richland County has a rich, diverse population, and a large part of it is Spanish speaking, said Director of Library Experiences Kaitlin Tang.
“We definitely have to acknowledge them by offering services like career coaching, social work, books and the other array of things we have to offer.”
Velasco said translators can be found throughout all Richland Library locations. In addition to translators, she said, the library offers tutoring or reading sessions to assist the Spanish community in understanding English.
Tang said the library is sharpening the kinds of materials it offers as it works toward its goal of inclusivity.
“Especially in books, we’ve seen there been emphasis on stereotypes,” Velasco said. “So … the library constantly orders new materials, not just buying books because there are Latino names but because we do the research and make sure it’s right for everybody.”
The library’s internal literature research team and its steady offering of Spanish events help tie the library to the community.
“For all the restaurants, grocery stores and businesses down here that are heavily Hispanic influenced, we think it’s important for our libraries to be a reflection of the people we serve,” Tang said.
This month, the library is showcasing its offerings through an array of events during Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from mid-September to mid-October.
“Our first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, we did a book discussion with our Let’s Talk Race team on Reyna Grande’s ‘The distance between us,’” Tang said.
The book is a memoir about Grande’s life and experience in the United States as a Mexican immigrant.
“We did have an open-mic night, too,” Tang said. “This is a regular recurring program that we have, and it travels throughout the Richland County community and it encourages artists, musicians, anyone interested to participate. This time, we had a Hispanic Heritage Month edition.”
Tang said the event featured Spanish speaking songs from a band and several local members.
Child Services Specialist Elisa Diaz said the library also reorganized materials around its locations to highlight Hispanic literature.
“We have an in-house list of books that are written by Hispanic or Latino authors,” Diaz said. “We use that … so we can display or involve them in our storytimes.”
Velasco events that occur regularly throughout the year — including included cooking classes and storytime – continue during the celebration month.
Regularly occurring events were geared towards celebrating Hispanic culture.
Diaz said residents have come to receive the library’s events well.
“On Thursdays, we have one of our most robustly attended programs,” Diaz said. “It’s a bilingual program that became so popular that we decided to have it every week instead of just every other week.”
Velasco said through her position, she works to bridge the Spanish-speaking community with the rest of the area every day.
“There are Hispanics year-round, not just for a month,” Velasco said.