Cristina Ramirez: Living la Vida Local or Being Latinx in Libraries: Lifting as We Climb
by: Cristina Ramirez
Cristina Dominguez Ramirez, MPA, MSLS, MA is a Library Manager and central VA's only heavily tattooed multilingual Latinx Library Manager. She is 10 months away from finishing her EdD in Transformational Education Leadership from the University of New England. She served as an ALA Councilor-at-Large from 2007-2016. Locally, she serves on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities and is a graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond, Class 2008 and of the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship, Class of 2015. She serves as a Commissioner on the newly created Human Rights Commission for the City of Richmond. She is working on editing a chapter for an academic book on diversity in libraries and is eagerly awaiting the publication of the book, Diversity and Inclusion in Libraries: A Call to Action and Strategies for Success for which she contributed a chapter. Cristina uses she/her pronouns. Find her on Twitter @ Cdramirez1
Latinx librarians make up about 4% of professional librarians in the United States. This lack of representation is a huge problem given the fact that there are about 57 million Latinos/Hispanic in the U.S., which amounts to 18% of the population. This number continues to grow. This population also includes both immigrant and native-born Latinx children that can greatly benefit from high-quality library services, policies, programs and classes that are culturally and linguistically responsive. One way to meet the needs of this population is to hire and promote Latinx faculty and staff with Spanish-language skills.
Many libraries around the country in Spanish-speaking areas with rapidly growing populations have not thought holistically about how to offer library services to the Latinx community. The key to changing this dynamic is to have a library diversity plan that includes planning for the recruitment, hiring, promotion, and retention of Latinx librarians and staff. Planning to expand responsive services begins with staff serving at all levels and departments in a library. Staff can serve as conduits and promoters of library services to growing communities by creating a network through targeted outreach establishing relationships with prominent community leaders in organizations such as Latinx serving churches, businesses, and non-profit organizations. Library staff can better ascertain the needs of the community by doing this. Doing so will create a more inviting space for patrons who may not have had the experience or tradition of using libraries in their home countries.
These Latinx library staff pioneers also can help push for Spanish or bilingual library collections and for programs that help to empower immigrants and the Latinx community. Resources that support their job searching, resume writing, technology skills, citizenship pursuit and meet their community and government service needs. Creating these programs will help to build relationships with Latinx in the community to see their library as a community hub and resource bolstering requests for funding, resources, and staffing.
We must lift as we climb through the ranks of a profession in which we make up such a small number, but are sorely and desperately needed. Latinx librarians also need to focus on creating a network of mentors and resources that we can share with others across the country.
Excellent resources such as the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking REFORMA exist and have undertaken pioneering work in establishing the need for Latinx staff and resources. We can now use this foundation and the work of others to help in recruiting and retaining library staff that can help the cause. Identifying promising Latinx community members who might be interested in library work and promoting our jobs to them is a great first step. Then we can work to help mentor them and to help promote them in our organizations.
Where does all of this lifting as we climb take us? It will take Latinx people to a place where we are better represented at all levels of American public libraries. It will create library services that are culturally and linguistically responsive and move us in a direction where we can partner with community agencies and organizations to better serve the needs of immigrants and Latinx people.