A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Saturday, August 13, 2005

"Should Spanish-Language Books Appear in Public Libraries?"


DENVER — A proposal in Denver would have more Spanish-language books and increase the number of bilingual staff members at public libraries in the city's neighborhoods with large Latino populations, but some local citizens are against the idea, saying it favors undocumented residents.

"Somebody has an agenda that says 'you all can come on over and we'll change our library system for you and we'll do it at taxpayer expense,'" said Fred Ebel of the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform.

But those who support a multi-lingual library system stress the benefits of widening the scope of the library's collection.

"A strong library, a multi-lingual library, a strong reading public is going to foster democracy and that's exactly the kind of thing that we want to see in the public realm," said Lisa Duran of the organization Rights For All People.
It does not foster democracy when the people who have come into the democracy cannot speak or read English. Rather, it promotes divisiveness and, really, promotes something other than American culture.

Why should our hard-earned money go to pay for any foreign language books in our publicly funded libraries? The language of the United States is English. If you want to read a book in a foreign language, either go to a country where the citizens speak it or buy your own through a bookstore or online.

If a library is going to hire a Spanish speaking librarian, simply to reach that group, then it should also have to hire a Russian speaker, a Japanese speaker (except that they actually learn English), a French speaker, a German speaker, a Portuguese speaker, a Welsh speaker, and speakers of just about every other language one can think of. Why not hire someone who can speak Quenya and Sindarin, the Elvish languages created by J.R.R. Tolkien?

The reason is that such an undertaking is impossible and simply ridiculous. Librarians at public libraries ought to be hired for their librarian skills, not because they happen to speak some language other than the language the majority of the taxpayers speak.

If I move to Mexico or Spain, I have no right to demand they hire English-speaking librarians at their libraries, for my convenience. I need to learn Spanish.

Nationwide an average of 8% of library budgets are spent on Spanish-language books. What upsets immigration reform supporters though is that at the same time, libraries have been forced to lay off staff and reduce their hours and services because of budget cuts.

According to Ebel, "[They] have no right really to use our taxpayer-funded facilities and especially to dictate library policy."

Our libraries have had to drastically reduce hours and will probably be cutting back again next year. Here is a link to one of my posts about the whole thing.