Bilingual Material in Libraries Draws Some Criticism

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Sep 5 16:35:08 UTC 2005

>>From the NYTimes, September 5, 2005

Bilingual Material in Libraries Draws Some Criticism

DENVER, Sept. 4 (AP) - On a rainy Saturday, Miereya Gomez thumbed through
a book while her two young sons carried comic books to their father in the
children's section of this city's Central Public Library. "We come here
mostly for the kids, for books and movies - educational and entertainment
- in Spanish and English," Ms. Gomez said. As the Spanish-speaking
population has grown in the United States, libraries have tried to keep
pace by stocking up on books, magazines and movies in Spanish.

In some places, however, critics say taxpayer money should not be spent on
a population that can include illegal immigrants or on proposals that
promote languages other than English. In Denver, where the foreign-born
population tripled between 1990 and 2000, largely because of Mexican
immigrants, the public library system is considering reorganizing some of
its branches to emphasize bilingual services and material.

Similar efforts have been taken by libraries across the country, from the
Queens Library in New York City, whose Web site is offered in English,
Spanish, Chinese, French, Russian and Korean, to the large
Chinese-language collection at the San Francisco Public Library. And it is
not just the nation's biggest cities. "The interest is in rural areas and
cities that aren't the usual Spanish areas, like New York or Miami, but in
North Carolina, Illinois and the Midwest," said Carmen Ospina, editor of
Critica, a magazine for librarians that highlights Spanish-language

Ms. Ospina said questions about starting Spanish-language collections have
come from librarians in Belton, Mo.; Nashville, Ga.; and towns she had
never heard of. "It's definitely a growing trend," said Carol
Brey-Casiano, former president of the American Library Association. But
the trend is drawing scrutiny in Denver.

Representative Tom Tancredo, Republican of Colorado, sent a public letter
to Mayor John W. Hickenlooper of Denver this summer asking if the library
was considering Spanish-only branches or converting to Spanish-language
material at the expense of English material. Mr. Tancredo, an outspoken
critic of American immigration policies, said he had been contacted by
concerned librarians and patrons. "When you have a strong cultural
identity and there aren't set incentives to become American, it creates a
lot of tension and divides the community," said Mr. Tancredo's spokesman,
Will Adams.

Those concerns were echoed by Michael Corbin, a radio talk show host who
helped organize a protest outside Denver's central library after sexually
graphic content was found in some Spanish-language adult comic books,
which were later removed. Denver library officials say they are not
considering Spanish-only branches in their reorganization plan but are
simply trying to accommodate a city where 35 percent of residents are

Janet Cox, adult services supervisor at the Pueblo Library District, said:
"We provide material to meet the needs of the people in the area, whether
that be in English or Spanish or another language. That's important.
That's what libraries do."

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list