For many people, meeting library staff outside of a branch is their first experience with Multnomah County Library. Through community outreach events, library staff members significantly impact people who have never been to a library or cannot visit a library location.
The library provides services specifically created for Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Black and Indigenous communities. These services are provided by staff who identify as part of those communities. Dedicated staff from the library's six language and culture groups step outside library branches and meet with seniors in living facilities, children about to start school, soon-to-be first-time parents, and families in group homes, among many others.
The Spanish language team collaborates with schools, community partners and nonprofits to connect with patrons in and out of the library.
At large events, Spanish library staff will set up a table with activities, free books and resources. Staff enjoy offering games like Lotería and sharing information about how the library is a fun place for the whole family.
Jeannine Gonzalez, bilingual Spanish youth librarian, has coordinated outreach events in schools, childcare centers, parks and family shelters.
Jeannine says that "the outreach work at family shelters has been an opportunity to interact and connect with families who are in a time in their lives where they can't make it into the library, or public library services are completely new to them as is the case with many immigrant families."
Library staff bring books, giveaways and a craft activity each visit. "The activity portion provides a reason for families to hang out for a bit, and if they are interested in learning about library services, it's an excellent opportunity. Giving away books also helps families build their own little libraries and give ownership to children over something that is only theirs," says Jeannine.
Bilingual Spanish Youth Librarian Pati Morán enjoys connecting with young children and their parents at smaller community events. Through the Early Kindergarten Transition (EKT) program, she connects with parents whose children will be entering kindergarten. The program encourages early literacy and presents resources to parents on how to best support children in learning how to read.
"Sometimes in these programs, we also connect parents with resources like housing, food and computer help," says Pati.
Pati is also able to connect parents with Alonso Melendez, the library’s bilingual Spanish digital equity and inclusion coordinator. Alonso develops digital skills classes and runs the tech lending program.
"The computer classes I do with adult learners are a great opportunity to provide community members with the support in a culturally and linguistically responsive way that they can feel comfortable with," says Alonso.
Students in Alonso's classes learn a wide range of computer skills, from basics like turning a computer on and typing, to sending emails, browsing the internet, and using Zoom.
In collaboration with El Programa Hispano, Bilingual Spanish Library Assistant Laura Bradshaw works with senior citizens and meets with them via Zoom.
"Latino elders are one of the most vulnerable populations that present a variety of needs such as access to health care, economic security, and cultural and language barriers, among others. Our elders experience isolation, and gathering as a group at El Programa Hispano helps them to socialize and keep active," says Laura.
Through this virtual program, Laura provides storytimes, conversations and resources for seniors.
"I love to hear the elders' personal stories, their sense of humor is wonderful, and they are always grateful," says Laura.
The Spanish team does an average of ten or more outreach events each month at different community locations, and they are not the only language group to do this type of work. Library teams are also present and providing services at specific Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, Black and Indigenous community events. For help connecting with specific language or cultural services at the library, call 503.988.5123.