2.1 Serving Multicultural Populations by Increasing Our Cross-Cultural Awareness in Libraries : Japan and the USA serving Latin Americans, Brazilians, Latinos and Hispanics.

第3章 社会的な論点と図書館

3.2. 多様性
3.2.1 Serving Multicultural Populations by Increasing Our Cross-Cultural Awareness in Libraries : Japan and the USA serving Latin Americans, Brazilians, Latinos and Hispanics.

Sandra Rios Balderrama
RiosBalderrama Consulting, Recruitment, Consultation & Presentations for Libraries


   Greetings from Arizona in the United States of America (USA). It is an honor to speak with you across the miles. Although we live in different time zones, latitudes and longitudes and although we speak different languages and even have some different cultural values, I suspect that we share the common desire to provide excellent library services to all who enter our public libraries. I have had the pleasure of learning a little bit about Japanese public libraries and the Japanese Library Association (JLA) through a few websites. I realize that a few websites and articles do not offer the wealth of information and knowledge that I could know about Japan, only small insights and clues. Forgive my limitations. I also understand that the JLA is a member of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). Unfortunately, I have not visited Japan (yet!) and I do not speak Japanese except for a couple of very basic greetings. Forgive my limitations of language. I am grateful to the translator of this article. Translation is both a skill and an art.

   In this article I will address how cultural conditioning in both of our countries may hinder our effectiveness while working cross culturally with multicultural populations and how cultural competence may facilitate and strengthen our work. I have been asked to discuss strategies for serving Latinos/Hispanics in response to some of your own interest in serving Latin Americans in Japan. I will incorporate examples of service to and cultural values of Latin Americans at the end, offer some links to USA models and resources. Templates and models are not perfectly transferable or applicable in every country or even, every library within the same country. Models can, however, be tweaked, tailored or adjusted and they provoke new ideas.

   This article is not exhaustive nor is it scientific or quantitative. The subject areas of immigration/emigration and multiculturalism are complex and worthy of continued study, research, and ongoing learning. I offer you, instead, the perspective of a public librarian of twenty four years, an ongoing student, teacher, trainer, and proponent of multiculturalism and diversity, and finally, a granddaughter of immigrants from Mexico.

   My article is written in the style as if I am speaking to you. I will sometimes refer to your country or mine, your language or mine, with the hope that I convey a “we”. “We” means that we are in this effort together. I will also use “his” and “her” interchangeably. I have included an explanation of usage of the terms: Latin American and Latinos/Hispanics in the “Notes and References Made” at the end of this article(1). I have included my e-mail address at the end of the article and hope that we will continue a dialogue. It is important that our collective wisdom be shared with one another and with one another’s countries.


   This article is dedicated to my colleague Ms. Yasuyo Inoue who I met in the early 1990’s while she was visiting Oakland, California. We reconnected in November of 2005 at the Thinking Outside the Borders leadership institute, which is a collaboration of the University of Illinois’ Mortenson Center for International Library Programs and the Illinois State Library. It has been a pleasure to keep in contact with Ms. Inoue over the years.


   Service to multicultural and immigrant communities requires

*library leaders that have national, political, inter-cultural, and global savvy

*diversity as an organizational cultural value

*library staff that is trained in skills to implement multicultural library services

*institutional cultural competence

   The list above points to the ideal situation, for which we must all strive if we are multiculturalists with a global vision. I understand that both Japan and the USA have some very small libraries without many resources surrounded by larger communities that may not have an acceptance of immigrants or newcomers. We have other larger libraries that may only be adept in one or two of the components listed. All of us are a “work in progress” as our countries and local regions change and our libraries strive to adapt. Regardless of where your library is in the realm of the ideal, even a basic desire by a local librarian to reach out to people that he sees that are new in the community – in order to let them know that the public library is a place to read about their home country, use the internet, and/or learn about their new country and the new language, that it is a place that welcomes families and people interested in learning about world cultures and literature through books, the internet, newspapers, DVDs, and programs, all at the public library ? is important and worthy.

   What is cultural competence? Here is one definition by Terry Cross:

“A set of congruent behaviors, attitudes and policies that come together as a system, agency or among professionals and enable that system, agency or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations”(2)

Effective Multicultural Library Leadership

   There are the “everyday” leaders that work in the library that decide to assist someone that does not speak Japanese or English, that conducts the children’s story hour with one or two new rhymes or finger plays in Spanish or Portuguese. The actions of these leaders are couched in “simply doing their job”. Although these decisions to act might seem small or easy, they are based on courageous insights and efforts. Then, there are the designated leaders (library directors and administrators) that have been given authority to make decisions, allocate resources, and to plan for the future. It is these leaders that we rely on to demonstrate an ability to navigate inter-culturally and effectively because the issues around multiculturalism – especially as related to immigration ? will be polarizing within any city, prefecture, library, and nation. Aside from the realities of xenophobia and racism, the anti-immigrant response may result from a fear of difference, a feeling of being threatened by the unknown, and/or a fear of the loss or dilution of a national culture.

   The multicultural leader must value communication methods based on mutual respect and openness. Behind these methods is the understanding that there is always the potential to learn something from another person regardless of their cultural background or their place within the organization. The leader understands that different cultural values are not ranked as better or worse than one’s own but as simply different and must be respected when inter-cultural groups work through compromise and understanding. An effective leader has awareness of international immigration issues as well as empathy for the immigrant that is far from all that is familiar. The leader recognizes the role of the public library in creating bridges between cultures, rather than borders and barriers.

   Although decisions within the library or the larger parent institution may be made hierarchically, the people “at the top” must always consider and incorporate the input of the library staff that is working directly with the library patrons. The leader considers this input when making decisions, allocating resources, and advocating for the value of library services. The USA tends to favor a “short power distance” (one of the dimensions of culture) when in relationship to designated leaders. This means that a staff member or a patron knows that they have access to the designated leaders and may voice their concerns or ideas directly. Even if there is a “large power distance” in another cultural setting where it would be unheard of to speak directly with a library director or government leader, there must be an indirect process for front-line staff to express their ideas, concerns, and problem-solving ideas. This fosters an environment of inclusion which is a basic tenet of multiculturalism. An effective multicultural leader will attend library programs and community functions in spite of her busy schedule and the demands on her time. She is demonstrating by her presence alone, that she supports both the community and the efforts of the library staff. Designated leaders, in particular, must “walk the talk” as we say in the USA, meaning that they must act and behave according to what they say or write.

Diversity as an Organizational Cultural Value

   What does it take for a library system to serve multicultural populations? First, a library must have an organizational culture that values diversity. This value must be widely shared with the staff and the public and must be incorporated into the design and planning of library services. The intent of most USA library diversity strategies have been two-fold: 1) to eliminate disparities and inequities in library service delivery and 2) welcome, integrate and include people that are labeled as “underserved” and/or that do not reflect the majority population or mainstream culture.

   The strategies are based, in part,

1) National values such as egalitarianism, meritocracy, and pluralism, values that the USA ascribes to. Even if we are aware of the gap between these values and reality, we still hold them as our ideals.

2) The American Library Association (ALA) professes the values of diversity, intellectual freedom, and equity of access. ALA recently passed a resolution in support of immigrant rights http://www.ala.org/ala/ourassociation/governanceb/council/councildocuments/ResolinSupportofImmigrantRights.doc This resolution follows historical resolutions among them #53.3.1 on the value of linguistic pluralism which is part of the Library Bill of Rights and the larger encompassing statement on intellectual freedom: http://www.ala.org/ala/ourassociation/governingdocs/policymanual/intellectual.htm .

3) IFLA offers us a definition of multiculturalism, multicultural communities, and guidelines for service: http://www.ifla.org/VII/s32/index.htm.

4) REFORMA (the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking) has as its goals a) development of Spanish language and Latino- oriented library collections b) recruitment of bilingual multicultural library personnel c) promotion of public awareness of libraries and librarianship among Latinos d) advocacy on behalf of the information needs of the Latino community e) liaison to other professional organizations, www.reforma.org. REFORMA is an affiliate of the ALA and often consulted for advisory, experience, knowledge of its members which are public, school, academic librarians, library workers, vendors, and publishers.

   Diversity as a cultural value of a library is demonstrated by

1) attitudes, behaviors, and commitment of designated leaders

2) human resources/personnel protocols that foster multiculturalism

3) staff training and development that foster multiculturalism

4) open communication and decision-making methods that foster inclusion and participation by the people working with the target community

5) on-going evaluation and measurement of service that looks at outcomes, outputs, and both qualitative and quantitative analyses

Externally it is demonstrated by

 1) relevant multicultural library programming,

 2) multilingual and multicultural collection development

 3) multilingual and multicultural public relations tools

 4) community partnerships

 5) outreach strategies implemented by culturally competent staff and administrators

 6) eventual participation/advisory by the community in the design and implementation of services

Staff Training and Development

   Staff development and training methods must focus on equipping staff to feel capable in inter-cultural encounters and to provide relevant library services. Some will benefit from “learning by doing” and others will benefit from classes, written materials, and/or hearing local professors or community representatives. Although staff members in any country obtain a mainstream model of learning as they are socialized and educated, it is important to be aware of different learning styles, especially in the area of multiculturalism. Each staff member is at a different place on the learning continuum that moves from cross-cultural and intercultural awareness to knowledge to experience to cultural competence. One can not learn cross-cultural skills over-night due to the strength and power of cultural values and biases, which will be addressed later on in this article. A training program might include everything from multilingual collection development, multicultural programming, second or third language skills, and cross-cultural communication skills, obtaining knowledge regarding the push/pull factors that catalyze immigration and international migration, and outreach skills to potential and prospective users of the library. It is important to include a performance appraisal process or an employee retention plan that supports and rewards efforts by staff to increase their cross-cultural competence.

Diversity and Cultural competence

   Outreach librarian, Ghada Elturk asks if the values and actions of diversity are even possible without cultural competence:

Can diversity be implemented in the absence of cultural competency? … All of us want to do the “right thing,” but what is right for some cultures is not right for others. Is it culturally accurate to say and implement, for example, the “golden rule” of treating people the way you want to be treated? How about finding out how members of other cultures want to be treated and use that as a guideline? This is one of the measuring sticks that enable us to find out how competent we are in some of our approaches to these societal issues (3).

The Power of Cultural Values

   Increasing one’s cultural competence begins with self-reflection and an awareness of how powerful cultural values play a role in our lives. Ms. Elturk mentions the “golden rule” of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This is often made reference to in the USA. She challenges the assumption that “our way” and “our preferences” are shared universally. Any of us in your country or mine attach preference to certain values because we were raised with them. Educator Carlos Cortes(4) says that we are influenced in the USA by a “societal curriculum”*. He breaks this concept into immediate, institutional, and media curricula. Another component is the “serendipitous curriculum” which includes “personal inter-ethnic experiences, chance encounters, & unstructured events. These events happen to each one of us throughout our lives. Each person’s experiences are unique and different.” (2)

   You might take time to personally reflect and write down what cultural values you obtained in life and how:

1) What cultural values did I obtain from my family?

2) What cultural values did I obtain from being a citizen of Japan? or Japanese?

3) What cultural values did I obtain from religious/spiritual guidance?

4) What cultural values did I obtain from my ethnic or regional or traditional heritage?

5) What serendipitous experiences impacted how I look at other cultures?

6) What kind of assumptions and judgments about other people or other cultures did the serendipitous experiences cause?

   Chances are, like USA Americans(5), you have carried some of these cultural values with you for a long time and they are obvious. Other values may not be so obvious because we don’t think about them when we act “on” them or “from” them. They are automatic. We expect to encounter different values when we travel internationally but not within our own workplace, our own community, and maybe our own country. Sometimes, the surprise of this discovery causes an emotional reaction (fear, anger, insecurity, confusion) that leads to xenophobia, prejudice, or racism. Our cultural values become our filters of whom and what is better or worse than us. We begin to develop a caste system in our own minds. Cultural values become the lenses through which we view other people in “our” own way and perhaps not as they really are. How can we serve people different than ourselves if we hold our own values so strongly?

   Let’s step back, pause, and look outward and try to locate ourselves in a larger context by trying this exercise:

1) List all the different cultures that exist in Japan.

2) List all different cultures in your library workforce.

3) List all the different cultures represented among your library patrons and users.

4) List all the different cultures that you have noticed outside and around the library, at the nearby businesses, schools, or residences

5) List all the different cultures you have heard or read about (through the media) in Japan but that you have not encountered yet, so far as you know.

   Take a look at your lists and the great diversity or homogeneity. You may not be accurate in identifying someone’s ethnic or cultural background and this is fine for now. It is easy for any of us to make assumptions about culture related to skin color, features or the way someone might dress; however this is an exercise in taking note of visible differences or, a lack of, in our surroundings. An academic librarian from a country that is neither yours nor mine told me that everyone in his library was really of the same culture and class and the ethnic and economic diversity was found outside of his library and in the streets. I appreciated his honesty.

Contact Between Cultures

   If you are working or living in a diverse environment or if you have traveled to other countries please think about the following:

1) Are there people from some cultural backgrounds that you feel more comfortable with? Why?

2) Are there people from some cultural backgrounds that you feel uncomfortable with? Why?

3) Rather than thinking about the people themselves, what are the behaviors or language or perhaps even attitudes that make you comfortable or uncomfortable?

   Keep your list and observe yourself with these reactions in the next few days or weeks.

   Conflict between cultures often occurs because of misguided labels and assumptions.

   We get into trouble with stereotypes, misappropriations and sometimes, generalizations. Stereotypes (what Carlos Cortes calls “mental straightjackets”) limit our scope. They tend to made by cultural “outsiders” and are demeaning descriptors of people, a person, or a group. In the mind of the person making a stereotype, that descriptor is always true, no matter if reality presents itself differently.

   Generalizations (what Carlos Cortes calls “flexible cues”) are sometimes useful and typically made by cultural “insiders”. They offer you an idea of someone’s culture with the warning that there will be exceptions by region or by individual person for various reasons. I might ask you for clues on what I should expect or what I should know if I go to Japan. You might ask me for clues about the USA if you have not been here. We might serve each other as “cultural coaches” with the understanding that there will always be exceptions.

   Do you think the following statements are generalizations or stereotypes?

USA Americans tend to prefer individualism.

All Latino or Hispanic people are short.

All Japanese people are quiet and reserved.

Most Brazilians speak Portuguese.

Librarians are not smart; they only know how to find things.

You will find many different religions in Japan.

People from the northern parts of Mexico tend to be taller.

All Brazilians know how to dance the samba.

Japanese people only travel in groups.

Most librarians do not know how to dance.

USA Americans are arrogant.

Latin Americans don’t like to learn new languages.

Most immigrants are interested in making the lives of their children better.

   Is it difficult to tell the difference between stereotypes and generalizations? Did you sometimes feel that the statements were facts? Sometimes reading these statements because humor because we may recognize some “truth” based only on our perceptions or serendipitous experiences. Sometimes reading these statements cause emotions such as anger or frustration. Some may cause no reaction because they seem fairly reasonable.

   Misappropriations occur when we assign our own value or assumption on someone else’s experience or behavior and then we judge them because we don’t like what we see or we are repulsed by it, attributing it to flaw in the person


   The following are a few dimensions of culture. Please remember that they are generalizations and represent opposite sides of a continuum. Where an individual is on the continuum depends on many variables including gender, economic and educational exposure and/or opportunities; proximity to indigenous and/or ethnic traditions, degrees of assimilation and/or acculturation, bicultural identity, generation born within a “new” country etc…

Context ? High and Low

   Latin Americans tend to be “high-context”. This means that it is more important “how’ you say something. In the USA ? Latinos/Hispanics have to navigate within a very “low context” culture in which “what” is said is very important and how you say it should be quick, clear, and direct. A USA American may misjudge a “high-context” Latino by thinking he takes too long to express himself and therefore, by being “indirect”, is hiding something. You will often hear a USA American say “get to the point” or “I want people to tell me directly if there is a problem”. A Latino may view a USA American as being too harsh or crude with their behavior. These are misappropriations that can lead to stereotypes or generalizations on both sides.

   In libraries you will find that successful programs to Latinos and Hispanics are high-context. This means that great care is taken, by library staff, to create “ambiente” (ambiance). Festive, colorful decorations are added such as “papel picado” (cut-paper art) and refreshments are served at the beginning or end of a program. In Japan, library staff may buy or make Latin American snacks (“antojitos”) or even offer up their own cultural foods. This effort, together with the actual program content and format, create an atmosphere that says “Welcome/Bienvenidos!” Latin Americans would never think of having you enter their home without offering something to eat or drink. A low-context person may view this as frivolous and wasteful. She may accuse the Latino visitors of wanting free tea and cookies at the library. It is because she views the actual program “content” as most important and separate from the need to welcome people holistically and almost ceremoniously. USA Americans tend to view library events more informally” and not requiring such “ritual”. It is enough to start the program, have the program, and end the program. The “ritual” to a Latino is simply an automatic, necessary, and very ordinary act. USA Americans also have a different concept of time and how it can be used or wasted, in terms of preparation and implementation. In Japan or in the USA, once a librarian has created a partnership with a Latino community it is likely that they will eventually offer to bring food to an event in order to contribute to the collective cause.

   “High-context” cultures value “relationships”. Care is taken to make a person feel welcome and to insure that a person does not take offense by being inadvertently criticized or embarrassed. You will find that as a librarian, you might not be questioned and it may take awhile for people to feel comfortable about what they need and want in the library. This is also related to long-power-distance preferences if you as the librarian are viewed as a designated authority. Once a partnership or relationship is developed however, then trust (“confianza”) grows and individuals will tell you their interests directly.

   Does the Japanese culture share some commonalities with the Latin American cultures? How are the cultures different in regards to context and content?


   Latin Americans have been influenced by global business standards of time and time-keeping; however, they tend to have a more flexible and permeable view of time. Time includes both the past and the present. Time may be described as a circle rather than a line from here to there. For this reason, you will often see that ancestors are honored and still viewed as part of the family. Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an example of a day celebrated in some regions of Mexico and is now acknowledged in some USA libraries with a program and a construction of an “ofrenda” (alter of offerings to those that have passed on to another life). Time is also viewed as something worthy of sharing with people, therefore, most Latinos won’t rush off when speaking with you (unless they have to go to work!) or they will take time to ask you how the baby is or your grandmother. “Making time” and “taking time” are very important. In contrast, USA Americans tend to view time as linear. They must “move on” and say “that was then, this is now”. They also look to the future or new ways of doing things, all the time. With library programming to some Latino groups, you may not have everyone show up exactly on time. You can decide how long you want to wait before you start. Or you may explain to the audience that the next time your program will begin promptly “on time”. start at a certain time. You will have to decide if it is OK for people to enter the program late. How does Japan view time?

Communication (Context, content, relationships)

   As mentioned earlier, Latin Americans tend toward high-context preferences which involve taking more time to convey a message and/or creating an environment that is conducive to productive exchange and communication. There is a tendency to allow for more time to discuss the well-being of one’s family and community before attending to business. If critique or criticism might be a factor then it will be communicated indirectly, within a positive context, and/or may be told to a third party, rather than the actual person. For Latin Americans, touch and space are also involved with communication. Most Latinos enjoy the “abrazo” (hug) as a greeting and do not need a great distance from one another when standing, sitting, or talking. USA Americans prefer further distance between themselves and someone else. They may allow for a hug but they may prefer the “handshake”. When Latinos first come to the USA, they often perceive USA Americans as “friolente” (cold). With this description comes the connotation of being unfriendly, too serious, and unfeeling. These are misappropriations when Latinos are judging some USA American behavior according to their own cultural values of “warmth”, “amistad” (friendship), carino (caring and affection). In turn USA Americans may judge Latino behavior as too “loose”, too familiar, too suffocating, because they are judging them through their own cultural values of maintaining physical distance and showing minimal expression or emotion.

   With acculturation or assimilation to any new culture, comes more understanding and awareness of the new country’s values, but often the “invisible” preference for the traditional values and behaviors still remains. The visible/objective behavior may change to accommodate the new country’s values but the invisible/subjective behavior and culture may be retained within the heart or within the home. A bicultural Latino in the USA may reserve the “abrazo” for family time or for when she is with other Latinos. Both Latinos and USA Americans respond favorably to a smile or eye contact. These are clues to them that they are being received in a welcoming or pleasant manner. For many cultures, the smile can have different meanings. If smiling is uncomfortable to a library staff member, then perhaps there is another way to indicate “Thank you for coming” or “Welcome to the library”. What might that be? Signage in Spanish or Portuguese?

   What are some keys to communication with Japanese people that might be helpful for Latin Americans or USA Americans to learn?

Identity: Individual & the Collective

   Latin Americans tend to identify greatly with a collective group that is typically the family or the community. Sometimes it is a network of godparents (“comadres” and “compadres”, co-mothers and co-fathers respectively) that share the life-long responsibility of raising and guiding children into adulthood. The collective is looked upon with respect. It would be a very difficult decision to uproot oneself and leave the family and go to another part of the country, much less leave the country. There is an interdependent relationship with the family and it is looked upon for morale support, advisory and decision-making. In the USA, in regards to library programming you may have to consider inviting the family (as opposed to one individual). A woman may come with her sister to the computer class. If this happens then, if you have a rule that only one person can sit at the computer at one time, and then this would be a barrier. A man may attend a library program with his godson or his nephew, even though he is the main person interested in the program. Children may accompany parents and serve as the bilingual translator. If you, as a library staff member, find that you can communicate with the child through a mutual language, it is still important to acknowledge with a smile or with eye contact, the accompanying adult or elder. This is “respeto” (respect). Latinos that live in the USA may live with their parents until an adult age or rather than living in nuclear families; the family is extended with aunts, uncles, cousins, and/or grandparents living in the home. The assumption is made, by USA Americans, that this type of living situation is proof of “how they ‘all live in one room’” (stereotype) and proof of dependence (misappropriation). USA Americans that values independence, individuality, and autonomy, dependence has a negative connotation. For USA Americans, living on one’s own is an important determinant of independence as well as seeking and taking job or educational opportunities far away from the family, if need be, because work and career are an important part of USA American identity. Therefore it is understood that a young man or woman must leave home. On the other hand, a Latino that works with a USA American that lives far from family may feel sorry for them ? thinking that “they are all alone”, however, they would not say this directly unless a close friendship with “confianza” (trust) would be developed. The Latino may act on his/her assumption by inviting that USA American over for birthday parties, baptism celebrations or for a Sunday “barbacoa” (barbecue).

What are the similarities and difference with Japanese culture?

Authority ? Small & Large Power Distance

   This dimension of culture was mentioned earlier in this article. Some cultures have a big power distance meaning that designated leaders, in the form of teachers, librarians, government officials, politicians, presidents etc, are meant to be kept at a distance. A USA teacher might be perplexed by a group of students that does not ask questions or offer critical analysis of his ideas and hypotheses. USA librarians that want Latino children to interact with them during story hour might wonder if the children are enjoying themselves or grasping the content of the story. Many Latino parents are proud if their children are quiet, well-behaved, and listen to “la maestra” (the teacher/librarian). without asking questions or interrupting. Can you see where the cultural misunderstandings occur? USA Americans ascribe to a short power distance where interacting, questioning, and critiquing a professor or a teacher is highly valued. It makes the person in a leadership role feel that the audience is interested and engaged with the subject matter. The USA does have a hierarchical government and there are protocols that designate proper behavior and respect; however, a typical American feels confident that if they need to tell the President of the USA, their opinion ? they will some way and somehow, either directly or through their elected representative or through e-mail! . The President may not listen or act on that person’s words but at least he has been contacted by an average citizen. This type of action would be based on what USA Americans’ ideas of what a “true” democracy could or should be.

Summary of Cultural Dimensions and Cultural Values

   There is a larger study of culture, cross-cultural communication (which includes gestures), and cultural competence but I have highlighted a few areas to give you an idea that two or more cultures may have some commonalities but they will also have great differences. The differences can cause misunderstandings, clashes, and conflicts. We often assume that our own national or cultural values are universal or human values. Not so! People may share an interest in modernism but not necessarily “westernism”. People may share the desire to feed, clothe, and educate their children but what the children eat, what they wear and what colors they dress in, and how and what they will learn, differs. People may want respect but how respect is demonstrated differs culturally.

   I must also add that in any multicultural country there are sub-cultures, co-cultures, and micro-cultures. These are cultures within the country or region that co-exist with the national culture yet the national culture is still the primary culture of business, education, governance, and thus, conditioning. A “third” culture is a new culture created by a blend of cultures and is neither one nor the other. Can you think of any “third” cultures in your country? There is also the “heart culture” for some people”. As an immigrant becomes acculturated she may speak and dress like an American but “inside she still feels “Mexican”. Here is a quote that may explain this phenomenon:

Even if we can learn another language, learn the ways this world here works, we want to preserve our own language first, traditions and culture, because we express ourselves best in our own language, translations are never good enough. There are values that all of us can share and treasure ? goodness of the heart, patience, love ? but some will always be just ours alone(6).

   Or course, regardless of how one carries or wear their culture, they also may face racism, sexism, class-ism, or homophobia, regardless of how assimilated or acculturated they become to the new culture. Multiculturalism, itself, exists among other factors in each of our countries.


   How do you reach out do you begin to reach out to Latin Americans. You now have some background in cultural differences and values to ground you or increase your awareness. Let’s begin with a quote from a Debbie Llenza, a colleague in Florida whose library system is serving a Brazilian community and that reflects their determination:

Broward County has a significant Brazilian population (22,087 according to the 2004 American Community Survey), and we have started providing services to this population. Because we do not have many staff members fluent in Portuguese, most of the programming comes out of Outreach Services. We have computer classes in Portuguese as well as citizenship orientation. We have a yearly cultural event at one of our regional libraries and work with The School Board of Broward County and with Brazilian community organizations on other programs. We are planning an “employability skills” series” in Portuguese as well. We also try to bring in translators to some programs that we present in areas with large concentrations of Brazilians. As with service to Hispanic community (and Haitians in our case), we go out and do programs where the people are… even churches(7).

Outreach planning involves the following steps:

1) dentify the new community by asking questions and doing research:

 A) Are church services being offered in another language?

 B) Do primary school, secondary, and even, college and university statistics reflect the presence of non-English speaking or ESL (English as a Second Language) students? (In Japan ? would you be researching the number of foreign-born, immigrant and/or non-Japanese speaking schoolchildren and students also?) Can you determine how much Japanese fluency of segments of the community?

 C) What are the most recent national/city/prefecture demographic breakdowns by ethnicity and language spoken at home?

 D) Are there Spanish/Portuguese radio stations, newspapers in the area?

 E) Are there businesses that cater to Latin Americans/Brazilians such as grocery stores, barber shops, or bookstores?

 F) In regards to Latin American and Brazilian communities, find out where in Latin America or Brazil they are from and think about if the are living among themselves or among the Japanese. Like the USA do you have a community that might be referred to as “Little Brazil”? or “Little Peru?” etc(8).

2) Identify what the community wants and needs:

 A) Ask Latino/Latin American community leaders, business owners, ministers, university professors, or teachers for their tips on how to reach their communities. If it the immigrant or newcomer population is not welcome in your country then this information will be difficult and nearly impossible but not totally impossible to obtain, especially if the public library values equity of all who enter regardless of resident status.

 B) If you have Latin Americans coming into the library you may design a brief bilingual or Spanish/Portuguese language survey instrument translated by a staff member, local language teacher, or business person. The survey may ask what type of materials, programs, Internet/computer services or classes they might be interested in. Your survey, at this point in time, is also a promotional statement of the services that you have.

 C) If you have bilingual staff member they might begin to ask Latin Americans and Brazilians directly as they come into the library what it is that would be helpful to them in their new country, and then, keep a collection of qualitative data or narrative.

 D) You may be able to assume that most newcomers want the following:

  i) materials (DVD’s, tapes, books, Internet resources) and classes to learn the country’s national language ? English or Japanese;

  ii) materials in their native language (Spanish or Portuguese) for recreational (literature, fiction, DVD’s, etc.) and information purposes (newspapers/magazines/the Internet), books for children

  iii) job/work and housing information and other coping/life/ survival skill information such as public transportation information, library and school schedules, how to apply for a job, how to lease or rent a house/apartment or obtain health insurance etc.

 E) As the newcomers become familiar with the library and as both you and their bilingual language skills improve, their needs and interests will be more sophisticated and diverse, as will your survey instruments. Latin Americans will be interested in celebrating your holidays and their holidays at the library. By finding out what region they are from in Latin America, you can find out what particular celebrations they observed and what they miss from home. Your role in conveying that the public library is a place to learn about world cultures is important.

3) Make contacts in the community:

 A) Ask permission to speak to community leaders, business owners, language school teachers, social agency directors and ask for their knowledge and clues on how to promote library services to their communities. Check to see if there is a Latin American, Brazilian, Peruvian, Mexican etc. club or organization in the area. Check to see if a Brazilian or Latin American consulate may be able to assist with information or as a partner. Sometimes they will sponsor cultural programs.

 B) Make presentations to parent groups, churches, community groups, employee associations, cultural groups and clubs etc.

 C) Ask permission to post or leave Spanish/Portuguese language or bilingual flyers and bookmarks that promote library classes, programs, and collections in the library as well as the library schedule.

4) Make media contacts:

Contact Portuguese/Spanish language newspapers and radio stations for permission to announce relevant library classes, collections and programs. It is likely that someone at the radio station is bilingual and can offer ideas of how to translate the public service announcements or press releases or ads.

5) Public Presentations:

 A) If you are not bilingual take a bilingual person with you that can help you translate. If that other person is also bicultural it will be an asset.

 B) Organize a welcoming presentation that may include visuals and that explains what is needed to get a borrower’s card, take a class, and how to use the computer.

 C) Explain to the audience that you are usually at the library but that you may not be there when they go to the library but that other staff members will be glad to help them. Be sure to highlight if you have materials to learn Japanese, materials to learn about Japanese culture and governance in Portuguese or Spanish and if you have materials (books, DVD’s, magazines, newspapers) in their native languages of Spanish or Portuguese.

Note: Remember what I said earlier that relationships are important to Latinos as well as a preference for “high-context” behavior. If you ask a Latin American person for assistance to translate a document or a help you make a presentation it is proper to ask them in a respectable manner and also offer something in exchange as a symbol of your and the library’s gratitude. Perhaps you can offer a free Internet class to them or you can place their flyers in your library etc…They may say “No, No, No” but it is important to offer. And of course, saying “thank you” is very important.

6) Make the Library a Welcoming Place

The library buildings, rooms, bookmobiles, web pages and public relations (PR) materials must say “Welcome” and “Come In”. The word “ambiente” (ambiance) speaks to the visual, aural, oral, and tactile senses. What we cannot say with words we can demonstrate in other ways.

A) Signage must be bilingual or in Spanish/Portuguese.

B) Posters, displays, and exhibits of Latin American culture are helpful.

C) If it is not too disturbing you may even consider playing Latin American music in the background.

D) Organize welcoming cultural programs that highlight the Japanese culture and holidays and/or the Latin American holidays and feast days.

7) Collection Development

This is a broad topic. However you will likely need materials to learn Japanese, find bilingual materials in English and Spanish/Portuguese, and find materials in the native languages of the immigrants. If your population is from Peru and Brazil, for example, you will have to find two different languages and may need to consider the differences, if they exist, between Brazilian and European Portuguese and/or Spanish language materials that are published in Spain, Mexico, Peru or any other country. This is a whole topic for another article in itself but I am pointing to things to consider before purchasing materials. A publisher colleague, Linda Goodman provided a reference for me to offer to you readers(9). in response to my question asking her if she could sell Spanish Language materials to Japan. You will also find in the “Web Resources” at the end of this article ? a few USA libraries that serve Portuguese speaking populations, including the information for Broward County Library in the “End Notes” section.

8) Have you made a difference? Evaluation and Methods

You may apply a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods.

A) Quantitative methods include surveys ? given in person in the library, over the phone, or maybe the internet.

B) Qualitative methods include “focus groups” if you have a facilitator that speaks Spanish/Portuguese and is culturally competent.

C) You may collect stories, quotes, and narrative – told to you by families, parents, children, and individuals that come into the library and say something like “I am thankful to the library for helping me learn Japanese” or “ “Because of the library I am able to e-mail my family back home. I don’t have a computer”

   The key is that the library must decide what the goals and objectives are, what outputs and outcomes should look like, and how you want to use these measures. Perhaps you want to justify continued service or obtain more funding and you will want to prove that your methods are successful according to your goals. Some say that it is difficult to measure how a library “makes a difference” in one’s life. And others say that serving all people in the public library is “simply the right thing to do” without question. The reality in the USA, however, is that funding often depends on partnerships with funders that demand measurement.

   Some of the links under “Web Resources” provide specific examples of service and outreach in USA libraries.


   Reaching out to someone different requires reaching into yourself and looking at your own values and biases. Whenever there is tension or conflict there is a crossroads. One can decide to learn something new and stretch their own boundaries of understanding and looking at other world cultures. We are not expected to give up our values but to weigh how important it is for us to respect values different than our own ? in an effort to create multicultural library services and increased cross-cultural understanding. The highest ideal value is to go beyond mere coexistence and to pursue new shared values in a new global world. Differences bring new insight to the new “whole”. Facilitating this new “whole”, this new global thinking, this new world, is our responsibility, as librarians. Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you through writing.



For Children’s Literacy:
Spanish Language Resources on the Web ? Children’s Literacy
Compiled by the Colorado State Library, Colorado Dept. of Education, this provides links to Spanish and English tools for parents, families, and librarians.

For Spanish Language Outreach Tools and Tips:
Web Junction Spanish Language Outreach Program
Excellent web resource with specific tips for developing an outreach plan. Offers sample signage, marketing tips, how to learn Spanish (for English speaking librarians) offered by working librarians in Latino communities and more… http://www.webjunction.org/do/Navigation?category=10555

Public Library WebPages’ targeting Portuguese communities in the USA:

Framingham Public Library, Massachusetts

Somerville Public Library ? English Conversation Groups, Massachusetts
Note – If you can not have Japanese- as- a-Second Language Class, perhaps you can have a Japanese Conversation Group for people to practice.

Milford Town Library, Massachusetts

Danbury Library, Connecticut

Danbury Library Language Center ? Aprenda Ingles (Library web page in Spanish)

Danbury Library Language Center – Aprenda Ingles (Library web page in Portuguese)

Public Library WebPages’ targeting New Immigrants to the USA:
Austin Public Library New Immigrant Centers, Texas
Services include study centers, talk time, ESL classes, library tours and free computer classes. Included is how this library system reaches out to the immigrant communities.

Queens Public Library- Immigrant and Citizenship Services, New York

Links to an online directory, information on coping skills, cultural programming, citizen preparation, immigrant service agencies. This library has often taken the lead in providing services to immigrants because of the great diversity in this New York Borough.


For a complete overview of Services to Latinos/Hispanics in the USA:
Alire, Camila A and Jacqueline Ayala, Serving Latino Communities: A How-To-do-It Manual for Librarians, Second Edition, Neal Schuman, forthcoming, 2007. In addition to addressing direct service issues, this book Includes practical guidelines for librarians to obtain funding, prepare a case for funders or library administrators, how to conduct to conduct focus groups and surveys etc.

For overview on marketing, outreach, publicity, and collection development:
Byrd, Susannah Mississippi, !Bienvenidos! !Welcome!: A Handy Resource Guide for Marketing Your Library to Latinos, Chicago: American Library Association and in collaboration with Cinco Puntos Press, El Paso Texas, 2005. This book provides an extensive directory of publishers, wholesalers, and distributors.

For Children’s books:
Trevino, Rose Zertuche ed., The Pura Belpre Awards: Celebrating Latino Authors and Illustrators, Chicago: American Library Association, 2006.
This book offers award winning English, Spanish, and bilingual children’s books by Latino authors and illustrators, with annotations. Sample book talks and activities are included as well as further web resources, including publisher information. For further information on the Pura Belpre Award: http://www.reforma.org/bepreaward.html

For Children’s crafts:
Pavon, Ana-Elba and Diana Borrego, 25 Latino Craft Projects, Chicago: American Library Association, 2003.
The book, written by two outstanding children’s and public librarians includes sample craft programs based on Mexican and other Latino American traditions. Includes clear instructions and photos. Major Hispanic holidays are included as well as everyday crafts.


(1)I use the term Latin Americans to mean people from South America and the Caribbean. The terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” are used in the USA to refer to descendants of people born in Latin America, Spain, and some countries in the Caribbean such as Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba. The terms also refer to recent. immigrants from these lands. They are broad terms made in an attempt to label and measure this large population living in the USA. The term “Latino” tends to be used on the East and West Coasts of the USA and “Hispanic” tends to be used in the Midwest, Heartland, Southeast, and Southwest regions. Of course there are exceptions. Both terms encompass a great diversity of bilingualism/monolingualism, country of birth/origin/heritage, generation in the USA, economic status, ethnic and/or racial background, and other variables. Many Latinos prefer to be called hyphenated Americans such as “Mexican-American”. Others identify by country of origin even though they may be USA born e.g. “Soy Dominicano” (I am Dominican), and others prefer simply to be called “American” e.g. “I am American of the United States, period”. The history of these terms is an article in itself.

(2)Cross, T. (1988). Cultural Competence Continuum. Retrieved Feb. 10, 2007 from the New York State Citizens’ Coalition for Children, Inc. Web site


(3)Elturk, Ghada. “Diversity and Cultural Competency,” Colorado Libraries (2003): 5-7; Retrieved Feb 1, 2007 from the Web Junction web site


(4)Cortes, Carlos, The Making and Remaking of a Multiculturalist, New York: Teachers College Press, 2002.

(5)As a personal preference I used the term “USA American” rather than “American” to distinguish that USA residents and citizens are one type of “American”. The “Americas” include Canada, Central and South America. People that live in the USA tend, however, to refer to themselves as “Americans” and often government officials including our current President (George W. Bush) ? refers to the USA as “America”.

(6)Wilcox, Mariko “Mountain Libraries Elevate Service to Lithuanian Patrons,” Colorado Libraries (2007): 21-23; Quote from Zita Podgurskis, p. 22.

(7)Debbie Llenza, e-mail message to author, Feb. 1, 2007. Retrieved Ms. Llenza’s library system website – The Broward County Library website Feb. 18, 2007


(8)Champlin, Maria, e-mail message to author Jan. 31, 2007. Ms. Champlin is from Brazil and has been working 15+years in serving Portuguese speaking communities (from Brazil and Portugal) and Latinos/Hispanics in the USA. She currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and works with libraries. Ms. Champlin may be contacted through the author of this article at: consult@riosbalderrama.com

(9)Goodman, Linda, e-mail message to author, Jan. 22, 2007: “Here’s who to contact in SPAIN regarding export from Spain to Japan: Sra. Maricruz Moreno-Sainz, Federacion de Gremios de Editores de Espana, CEA Bermudez, 44; 28003 Madrid, Spain; FA (011 34 91 535 2625; E-mail fgee@fge.es” This is an umbrella organization for all Spanish Publishers in Spain. Ms. Goodman is President of The Bilingual Publications Company, 270 Lafayette ST., NY, NY 10012; (212) 431-3500 and E-mail lindagoodman@juno.com

Balderrama, Sandra Rios. “Serving Multicultural Populations by Increasing Our Cross-Cultural Awareness in Libraries : Japan and the USA serving Latin Americans, Brazilians, Latinos and Hispanics”. Research Report on the USA Libraries 2007. Kansaikan of the National Diet Library, 2008, p.299-305, (NDL Library Science Series, No.40).