Peoria Public Library looks to improve, expand services for Hispanic visitors

Jan 22, 2016

Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

The Peoria Public Library, like many agencies, businesses and nonprofits, is looking for ways to extend its reach to the Hispanic Community.  

This weekend, the library is hosting its first event specifically aimed at bringing more Latino visitors through its doors. The event will have live music, food and library card registration. 

The main branch on Monroe St. is adjacent to a Methodist church that’s known for its Latino ministry. That’s why library programming coordinator Karla Wilkinson sought ideas from a Spanish-speaking minister. But Wilkinson says when she approached him, the minister said he had only set foot inside the library once - briefly. He left because he couldn’t find books in Spanish.

“I’d heard that same story several times, that ‘we came in, we didn’t know what to do, so we just left,’" Wilkinson said. "And so, this event, I hope will get people comfortable with coming in the library but also get them independent.”

Wilkinson says 12 people have volunteered to help translate and welcome guests.

“This is something that people want to see, and something that we can provide. It’s not hard, it doesn’t take much that much resource from us to provide this for this community,” Wilkinson said. 

The library already has books and search tools in Spanish. But Wilkinson says the open house aims to give people in the Hispanic community a place to feel welcome. Wilkinson says the event includes food provided by Panaderia Ortiz and a live Mariachi performance. The event is at the main branch at 107 NE Monroe St. on Sat. from 2- 4 pm.

The open house is part of a wider effort to increase its programming and services to meet the needs of the growing Latino population in Peoria. Wilkinson says the efforts are supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association.