Archive for Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Bilingual library opens

September 11, 2001


— Kansas City's West Side has long been an enclave for Spanish speakers. Now it's getting a library that fits the neighborhood.

The Irene H. Ruiz Biblioteca de las Americas opened Monday morning to replace the crowded storefront city branch that closed in July. The new million-dollar building is four times bigger than the old one and, like the old library, boasts a collection that is about 30 percent Spanish.

It also has 14 computers, compared to five at the old location, and longer hours. Branch manager Magaly Vallazza said the library is already taking reservations for its 50-person meeting room.

People across the city rely on the library staff, Vallazza said. Most of the staff is bilingual; some are natives of Bolivia, Cuba and Mexico.

The branch is named for Irene Ruiz, a former librarian who built the Spanish-language collection.

"I'll be happy to see it open," Ruiz said.

So will the largely Hispanic neighborhood, which has been waiting for years. At one point, residents fought and defeated a plan to merge it with another branch.

In 1996, the library promised voters that if they agreed to pay higher taxes, part of the money would buy a new branch building on the West Side. The levy passed.

Uzziel Pecina represents the neighborhood on the Kansas City Public Library board. She said some in the Latino community felt left out.

The new library "iss something the Latino community has been waiting for a long time," she said.

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