When I decided to call my local library and offer to read to young library patrons in Spanish I was expecting it to go over well. I knew they already had a story-time program in place so when I called I asked if they had any reading in Spanish. I was told that they did not and I explained that I wanted to speak to somebody about volunteering in their library in order to meet this need. The lady who I initially spoke to sounded enthusiastic about it and transferred me to the children’s librarian. The gentleman who answered the phone did not initially seem to be paying me much attention as he misunderstood my query and thought I was seeking a story-time program in Spanish for my son. I repeated myself and this time he understood but responded that Spanish story-time was not needed.
Not needed. I was taken aback. This was not the response I was expecting given that I live in South Florida. He did not offer to put me in touch with anybody, or even thank me for my call. He dismissed me. There are many things about that phone call that do not sit right with me. The first and most obvious one is the fact that a children’s librarian said to me that Spanish language resources are not needed. Nothing could be further from the truth and that he believes as such worries me. Especially considering that there are over 500 Hispanic students enrolled in the two elementary schools within my city.
Something else that bothered me is that a library’s response to a volunteer is to send them away. Libraries are wonderful resources. They are often underfunded and yet the role they have in the community is an important one. Communities are strengthened when members take part in them. I wanted to get involved but I was shot down. Now what? I should have asked more questions but I was stunned and didn’t feel like arguing. I was hoping for dialog, collaboration. Instead I got an immediate knee-jerk no.
I do not feel personally slighted. He doesn’t know me and I don’t know him, but I do feel disappointed. Reading is such an important component in a child’s education and it’s been shown to be beneficial to children of all ages. I know that my community is home to a lot of Spanish speakers who by virtue of their environment are raising bilingual children just like I am. Exposing children to a different language is a good thing, so even non-Spanish speakers could benefit and enjoy story-time in Spanish. In my opinion there was no reason to reject my offer. It would have cost the library nothing to try it out and if nobody came it would have been no skin off their nose.
I wrote the library a letter. I am hoping that by reaching out to express my disappointment that somebody will in turn reach out to me. I feel very strongly that reading programs are necessary and there’s no harm in adding on Spanish language to already existing ones.
Thank you for reading. I needed to vent a little about this as I can’t stop thinking about it and replaying the conversation in my mind. If I receive any kind of response or find somewhere to volunteer I will write a follow-up post.