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What resources does the Washoe County Library System offer to Spanish speakers?

A librarian stands in front of three children and two adults in a room. There are also colorful flags and whiteboards with colorful posters on them toward the front of the room.
Courtesy of Washoe County Library System
Children listen during Bilingual Story Time at the Sparks Library.

Lea en español.

With an ever-growing Latino population in Reno and the surrounding area, it is no surprise that there is a need for the Washoe County Library System to offer more Spanish-language events and services for those living in the county.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Hispanics and Latinos in Washoe County rose from 16.6% in 2000 to 25.9% in 2020.

Over time, the library began utilizing their bilingual employees to fulfill this need. Now, the Washoe County Library System offers a variety of events to Spanish-speaking members of the community.

One of the first events the library began offering for Spanish speakers is Bilingual Story Time, during which a librarian reads to children.

“I’m the one who hosts the event, the one who plans out how to present it,” said librarian Maya Delgado-Almada. “So for the Bilingual Story Time, I’m the one who reads the books and then engages the kids in songs in English-Spanish. And if I can, (I) also introduce songs in other languages.”

Delgado-Almada also hosts a conversation hour where children can participate in arts and crafts.

A librarian holds up a masquerade mask made of paper with feathers on it.
Courtesy of Washoe County Library System
Maya Delgado-Almada poses for a photo.

“I wanted this event – the Art and Spanish Conversation – to be an opportunity for kids just to hear Spanish outside of their home,” Delgado-Almada said, “so it could be more normalized to hear Spanish and probably to speak it.”

Two newer Spanish-language events the library hosts are computer literacy classes and English Language acquisition classes, the latter being a partnership with the Northern Nevada Literacy Council.

“They are classes conducted in Spanish for people that want to come and learn a little bit more about computers,” said Jamie Hemingway, a library spokesperson, adding that “they’ll do English classes, like English as a second language or citizenship classes. They focus a lot on literacy and outreach to Spanish speakers.”

In addition to these in-person services, the library system offers a variety of online resources, including resource databases in Spanish; Mango, a language-learning platform; free access to the New York Times in Spanish; Referencia Latina, a research database in Spanish; TumbleBooks, a collection of animated picture books; Brainfuse, online tutoring with a Spanish option; World Book, a suite of research tools with a Spanish version; and Libby, which has some eBooks and audiobooks in Spanish.

In terms of physical materials, the library estimates they have 5,741 Spanish-language books, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, and more.

Currently, these events and services are being promoted through bilingual social media posts; a page for Spanish speakers on the library’s website; print promotion in a quarterly publication; and community outreach at events. The library hopes to expand on this promotion in the future.

“We are looking to increase our reach in the Spanish-speaking community and are researching other media outlets and outreach events,” Hemingway said.

In the future, the library system hopes to expand their services with the addition of Spanish-language options for their Book-a-Librarian program, which is currently available in English. Patrons can reserve an hour with a librarian to receive computer help.

“I really feel that Spanish speakers – they have, one, that technology barrier, and then that language barrier, so they get pushed farther and farther behind,” Delgado-Almada said. “Having a Book-a-Librarian specifically for Spanish speakers would, number one, get them involved with the library in at least one way, and number two, would give them maybe the security to think that there’s someone that they can go to at the library who can assist them.”

For now, however, Delgado-Almada is happy to give more opportunities to young Spanish speakers.

“I always used to go to the library when I was little, but all the events were in English. And I really wish I’d had an opportunity to speak Spanish just out in the community,” she said. “This event is something I wish I would have had. I didn’t have it and at least the next generation can.”

This story was originally published by Noticiero Móvil, a KUNR media partner, on March 14, 2023, and was lightly edited for style.

As a note of disclosure, KUNR partners with the Washoe County Library System on the On the Shelf and On the Kids’ Shelf programs.

The Reynolds School of Journalism’s Noticiero Móvil is a bilingual Spanish/English, faculty-run student newsroom at the University of Nevada, Reno and a KUNR media partner.
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