This NH public library seeks to hook more readers with Latinx books
This is part of a series of stories for Hispanic Heritage Month from NHPR's Spanish language initiative, ¿Qué Hay de Nuevo, New Hampshire? Learn more about that initiative here.
At the entrance of the Nashua Public Library, a two-sided stand greets users with books from writers born in Latin America or the U.S. Classics in Spanish, like “La Fiesta del Chivo” or “Pedro Páramo,” share the space with more contemporary Latino literature like “Seeing Red” and “The President and the Frog,” written in English.
Amanda Blair, who works in the library’s information services department, came up with the idea of putting together the Hispanic Heritage Month stand. A librarian’s daughter, she speaks Spanish fluently. Blair learned it in college and perfected it while she was a teacher in the Dominican Republic.
While Blair says she loved her life there, she felt committed to coming back to her hometown.
“There are so many people [who speak Spanish] who need the library,” she said.
Blair says since 2021, the library has been strategizing how to bring more Latinos in. She has been working in the library for three months and is part of that change to become more aware of Nashua’s diversity. The library offers books for bilingual kids and programming, like reading events.
She says Latinos usually use library services, like printing and citizenship classes, but often stay away from the bookshelves because they believe they won’t find books in their language.
“A person told me, ‘You don’t have books in Spanish,’” she said. “ I think a lot of people don't know [those books] exist.”
Around 400 books for adults written in Spanish are available at the library. The teen collection has around 70 and the children’s around 200. Librarians choose what books from authors born in Latin America or the U.S to buy. They keep an eye out for the most popular ones and good translations.
But Blair says the message about the library’s collection availability doesn’t often reach the Latino community. She says not only Nashua, but libraries around the country need more Latino staff that outreach their communities.
“I speak Spanish, but I am not Latina,” she said. “That does make a difference.”
Blair says public libraries should be for everyone, and cultural competence can help Latinos go beyond the basic services and venture into the bookshelves.
Blair says the budget for materials in Spanish is around $350 per year but the library is currently looking to shift the budget for electronic resources to include more downloadable ebooks and audiobooks in that language.
“Most of our world languages budget actually goes to Chinese materials as they circulate much more often,” she said.
NHPR's Spanish news team recommends these books by Latinx authors:
- “Paula” by Isabel Allende
- “El Amor en los Tiempos del Cólera” by Gabriel García Márquez
- “The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina” by Zoraida Córdova
- “Personas Decentes” by Leonardo Padura
- “Crónica de Una Muerte Anunciada” by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
- “Doce Cuentos Peregrinos” by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
- “Olga Dies Dreaming” by Xochitl Gonzalez
- "Ficciones" by Jorge Luis Borges
- "Los Reglones Torcidos de Dios" by Torcuato Luca de Tena
- "El Ensayo Sobre la Ceguera" by José Saramago
- "Once I Was You" by María Hinojosa