February 11, 2016
By Reggie Reyes
To ook at the Baltimore County Public Library's selection of Spanish language material, one would think that the Spanish-speaking population of the county is virtually nil. Whenever I regard the Spanish language section of even a major branch like Towson or Cockeysville, I am reminded of the bad old days when the dominant culture had its story to tell, and everyone else was told to learn to like it. In comparison to the English-language books, the Spanish-language books are about equal to the amount of books on automobiles in comparison to an entire library.
These public branches should represent the languages of the residents in the county. Period. The 2014 Census data show that at least 5 percent of the 826,925 residents in Baltimore County are of Hispanic origin, and from 2009-2013, the foreign-born population was 11.1 percent. Furthermore, the fastest growing voting bloc in the United States is the Latino population.
Of the books listed in Nielsen's U.S. Top 20 Spanish titles for the week ending January 17, the Baltimore County Public Library does not own half. These include world-wide best sellers such as Pope Francis's "El Nombre de Dios es Misericorioso"; P.D. Eastman's "¿Eres Mi Mamá?"; and Stephen Kendrick's "El Plan de Batalla para la Oración." To give a point of comparison, while the BCPL does not own a single Spanish-language copy of Joel Osteen's "El Poder del Yo Soy," they own 60 copies of the book in English in its various formats.
On the "Baltimore County Public Library Schedule of Events" page for January, the only events involving Spanish whatsoever are "Bilingual Baby Story Time" and "Preschool Story Time." As a bilingual adult, I find this problematic. What does it say to the adult Spanish speaker? What does it say to anyone who doesn't wishes to be treated as a baby but wishes to use Spanish?
What is to be done?
The hardest remedy is to purchase at least 5 percent of all new titles in the Spanish language, but why not? There is no official language in this country, and to suggest that Spanish speakers should drop their native language is a repulsive proposition — one we have seen before, sometimes from the most cruel dictators. An easier remedy is to open up bilingual readings to all age groups, not just babies and preschoolers. Another is to have classes and workshops like resume building and job interviewing conducted exclusively in Spanish. Any opportunity available in English should be made available in Spanish in the same proportion as the Spanish-speaking population of the county.
Source: The Baltimore Sun