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Grant for Spanish language books helps create Cincinnati libraries that are 'truly for all'

Bill Rinehart

The Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library is expanding its engagement with non-native English speakers, thanks to a $20,500 grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation.

Price Hill Branch Manager Sondra Presley says four branches in the city have started handing out more than 2,300 Spanish and bilingual books free of charge.

"Historically, yes, we've had Spanish language materials. But this is a way for them to have their own library at home and connect with our staff here and the resources that we have to offer. That way they feel like they have a place here, because the library is truly for all."

The books were given to libraries in Price Hill, North Central, Forest Park, and the West End where they're given out on-site and at special events.

Presley says the grant focuses on childhood literacy for kids living in poverty, and the neighborhoods were chosen based on income and the number of people from other countries who live in those communities.

Engaging with people directly is important, Presley says, because it opens the door for people to learn more about resources the library has. For instance, she says some non-English speakers hesitate to use the services because they do not have an ID to register for a library card.

"We have other cards that they're able to use to be able to get library materials," she says. "When we see people, we try to meet them where they are, and just present them with the opportunity to take these materials home."

The four branches have given out over 1,000 books so far, and early information gathered shows building relationships with people makes a difference.

"It's been proven through our outreach that the kids are coming back. They are coming to the library, they are asking us about programs, they are asking us about different books that they're interested in," Presley says. "So it's been a great tool to get our ESL community in the door and it's been a great tool to connect and continue to build those relationships with them, too."

Corrected: November 16, 2021 at 2:24 PM EST
Nov. 16, 2021: We've corrected the title of Price Hill Branch Manager Sondra Presley.
Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.