Archive for Monday, September 5, 2005

Critics say libraries shouldn’t use tax money for Spanish-language materials

September 5, 2005

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— As the Spanish-speaking population has grown in the United States, libraries have tried to keep pace by stocking up on books, magazines and movies.

In some places, however, critics say taxpayer money shouldn't be spent on a population that can include illegal immigrants or on proposals that promote languages other than English.

In Denver, where the foreign-born population tripled from 1990 to 2000, largely because of Mexican immigrants, the public library system is considering reorganizing some of its branches to emphasize bilingual services and material.

Similar efforts have been taken by libraries across the country, from the Queens Borough Public Library in New York City, whose Web site is offered in English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Russian and Korean, to the large Chinese-language collection at the San Francisco library.

And it's not just the nation's biggest cities.


Christine Johnson, children's librarian at the Denver Public Library, places one of the library's Spanish-language books on the shelf in the downtown branch Aug. 18 in Denver. The growth in Spanish-speaking populations across the U.S. has triggered controversies for libraries as critics say taxpayer money should not be used for illegal immigrants or on proposals to promote languages other than English.

Christine Johnson, children's librarian at the Denver Public Library, places one of the library's Spanish-language books on the shelf in the downtown branch Aug. 18 in Denver. The growth in Spanish-speaking populations across the U.S. has triggered controversies for libraries as critics say taxpayer money should not be used for illegal immigrants or on proposals to promote languages other than English.

"The interest is in rural areas and cities that aren't the usual Spanish areas, like New York or Miami, but in North Carolina, Illinois and the Midwest," said Carmen Ospina, editor of Critica, a magazine for librarians that highlights Spanish material.

But the trend is drawing scrutiny in Denver.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., sent a public letter to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper this summer asking if the library was considering Spanish-only branches or converting to Spanish-language material at the expense of English material. Tancredo, an outspoken critic of U.S. immigration policies, said he had been contacted by concerned patrons.

"When you have a strong cultural identity and there aren't set incentives to become American, it creates a lot of tension and divides the community," said Tancredo's spokesman, Will Adams.

Denver library officials say they're not considering Spanish-only branches in their reorganization plan but simply are trying to accommodate a city where 35 percent of residents are Hispanic.

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