Ninjas, allow me to introduce Lucy Iraola. Lucy completed her Masters of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Denver in 2013. She is currently working as a Bilingual Spanish YS Librarian with the new and exciting Every Child Book-Bag Rotation program. She is passionate about libraries, diversity, outreach and providing excellent early literacy education and resources for children and their families. Lucy was born and raised in Puerto Rico where she received her Bachelors of Arts in Communications from Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan, PR. We’re glad to have her share her expertise and perspective here this month!
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do with kids in storytime, and why do you do it?
Lucy: Without a doubt, my favorite thing to do in storytime is singing. I LOVE to sing! I mostly like fun songs that people have to act out and dance! I try to have at least two songs that are fun with lots of actions and movements. I believe music is extremely powerful, it just brings people and kids together. The best thing about it is that it makes you feel good because it lowers stress and I think that’s awesome. There’s so many positives that comes from music, singing rhymes and action songs and research proves it. Children are happier after singing. And, who doesn’t like to see those cute faces smiling, playing and laughing during storytime? That’s what it’s all about, making kids happy and involved.
Q: How do you go about continuing to develop your storytime skills?
Lucy: I like to read library magazines to see what other libraries and librarians are trying and what’s working well for them, besides learning about new picture book titles that I would like to order and try later. I try to attend conferences, webinars and workshops whenever I can to keep myself up to date on early literacy research and to network with other librarians who share some of my early childhood interests. I’m also fortunate to know so many wonderful youth services librarians from all the library systems I’ve worked with that I always can call for advice if I need to. Lastly, I check out blogs and some bilingual websites that can help me plan my storytimes whether I’m doing them in English, Spanish or even in another language.
Q: What’s been inspiring your library work lately?
Lucy: The relationships I have with my co-workers who I also consider my friends is very inspiring. We are always ready to share a new book, rhyme or song, idea or resource, etc. It’s great to collaborate and work together on new projects or something related to storytime and improving our parents messages. One of the greatest thing about our profession, is that there’s always something new we can learn and try. Whether is something about STEM, the Sensory Friendly storytimes, using technology, there’s so much to keep ourselves busy.
I’m excited about the beginning of the school year as well. It’s where I’m most active presenting storytimes and providing early literacy workshops outside the library building. I manage the Every Child Book-Bag program, it is a bag rotation program where we provide age and culturally appropriate children’s books in many languages to approximately 8,000 children in Multnomah County. We partner with child care organizations like Head Starts that help us bring books to children that are at risk of not having books in their homes.
Q: You were nominated for Guerrilla of the Month specifically for your expertise and experience offering Spanish storytimes. What would you say to library staff and administrators who are hesitant to offer multilingual programs for young children and their families?
Lucy: Considering that providing library service to all the people is at the core of what library service is all about, public libraries ought to think about the importance of providing equal library services to all children and their families no matter the language. It is no secret that the US is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, therefore public libraries need to start thinking about ways to keep up with new demands of a growing community. It’s important that every public library look at their community demographics and see what are the common languages spoken around the community they serve and take action. Sometimes libraries and even some librarians are intimidated to serve diverse language groups, mainly because they think they have to speak the language in order to be successful, fortunately that’s not the true. Most librarians feel afraid to try something new when they don’t know, not realizing that often times we have more in common than we think. Read and educate yourself about the changing demographics and new trends. Even if you start small, your multilingual library patrons will appreciate your efforts in providing something that’s meant for them.
These are my main tips when thinking about providing multicultural storytimes or programs:
- Read a good reference book about providing services in other languages
- Find community leaders that can help you promote library programs and services — for many diverse language groups is all about that personal relationship
- Make an effort to learn a few words and phrases in the language you’re trying to reach and serve
- Make outreach a priority and connect with your community
- Have a budget for multicultural library materials, for marketing and publicity
- When possible hire bilingual, bicultural staff to represent your community, if that’s not possible get library volunteers who can do storytimes and help you promote new library programs you’re trying
- Find other library professionals you can contact for support and advice, network is key
- And finally, always smile, be welcoming and friendly – some people didn’t grow up with libraries so there’s a lot that they don’t know and need to learn
Q: How did you come to be a storytime practitioner?
Lucy: When I moved to Oregon, I visited the library regularly and was interested in volunteering there. Later, through a friend, I got a part-time position at the Hillsboro Public Library, Shute Park branch working as the Libros (Library Outreach in Spanish) Coordinator. This position allowed me to present Spanish storytimes and connect with the Latino community. It was during that time that I realized how much I loved reading to the children and singing songs to them and their families in Spanish. That job prepared me to apply for a Library Outreach position with Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS) in a program named the ¡Sí program! that was funded by an LSTA grant. While in that position, I had to visit family child care providers who were not registered with the state and provide informal workshops and storytime trainings in their homes with the children in their care. Due to the success of the Si program and all the people we were reaching, WCCLS decided to make my position a regular position adding more responsibilities, like providing early literacy trainings, supporting the library branches with cultural programs and collection development and by continuing to do storytimes outside and inside the library buildings. I was then providing storytimes at migrant camps, in different child care centers and Head Starts and partnering with different community organizations. I worked with WCCLS for seven years and even though I didn’t have a library degree I was working as an outreach bilingual librarian. I was attending library conferences and trainings and was able to increase my knowledge about early literacy, outreach to diverse communities and effective storytime best practices. I took the Every Child Ready to Read trainings, both the 1st and 2nd edition and the Early Words training. I also became a member of PLA, OLA and Reforma and started connecting with other librarians who had similar interest in providing culturally appropriate Spanish storytimes. I was extremely happy in my job, and then I got the opportunity of a lifetime! I applied for a fellowship at the University of Denver in Colorado to do a MLIS with a specialization on Early Childhood Librarianship. I was one of 10 fellows that received the fellowship! While in Colorado I had the great pleasure to work with two library systems, Arapahoe Library District and Jefferson County Public Library. I am very grateful for the time I was in Colorado and all the people who helped me during some difficult times there, but the reality is that I missed Oregon and my friends too much so I decided to move back. I received a job offer from Multnomah County Library and just recently had my first year anniversary. Life is good!