Public Libraries and Hispanics Immigrant Hispanics Use Libraries Less, but Those Who Do Appreciate Them the Most in OutlooK-12 magazine

by Ricardo Castillo in

A classroom library is an excellent addition to enhance learning for all students. The empowerment gained by developing an appreciation of reading, however, is only one of the benefits that can be derived from exposure to a varied collection of books on classroom shelves. A report by the Pew Research Center gives indications that immigrant Hispanic students reap added rewards when given a chance to sample books in a classroom library setting. They narrow the gap between those who frequent public libraries and those who don’t, opening up a whole range of benefits for them from applying for jobs to learning more about government programs and community resources.

These are some of the findings of this latest installment of the Pew Research Center’s reporting on the Center’s landmark 2013 Library Services Survey authored by Pew’s Anna Brown and Mark Hugo. “When it comes to public libraries, immigrant Hispanics pose both a challenge and an opportunity to the library community. On the one hand, this group, which makes up half of the adult U.S. Hispanic population, is less likely than other Americans to have ever visited a U.S. public library and is much less likely to say that they see it as ‘very easy’ to do so,” the survey reveals. “At the same time, Hispanic immigrants who have made their way to a public library stand out as the most appreciative of what libraries have to offer, from free books to research resources to the fact that libraries tend to offer a quiet, safe space. And they are more likely than other groups to say that closing their community library would have a major impact on their family.” Statistically, here is what the Pew report reveals about the library habits of Hispanics compared to other racial and ethnic groups:

 • Seven-in-10 (72 percent) Hispanics ages 16 and older say they have visited a public library or bookmobile in person at one point or another in their lives, a share below that of whites (83 percent) and blacks (80 percent).
• A total of 83 percent of U.S.-born Latinos say they have visited a public library at some point in their lives—a share similar to that of whites and blacks. However, among immigrant Latinos, a smaller share—60 percent— say they have visited a public library or bookmobile in person. As public libraries have seen their role shift to become a community center and hub for technology, familiarity with libraries and the development of reading habits gives users a range of services beyond lending privileges. According to the Pew survey:

• The Pew Research library survey finds that among library users, that is, those who have ever used a public library, Hispanics are less likely than whites or blacks to know about the services offered by their local library.
• Six-in-10 (62 percent) Hispanic library users say they know about at least some of the library services their local public library offers. By comparison, 71 percent of white and 74 percent of black library users say the same about their public libraries. 

• The gap between immigrant Latinos and whites is largest on services such as help finding and applying for a job and help applying for government programs, permits or licenses. Imagine how those numbers could improve if students were consistently exposed to classroom libraries from the time they become part of the school system – private or public.