Jenna Ingham, head of youth services at the Verona Public Library, is making an effort to bring more books in languages other than English to its children and young adult collections.
Efforts to expand were born out of a desire to create a collection more reflective of the community and the world, as well as to provide resources for speakers and learners of other languages.
“I’m trying to listen to my community and what they want,” Ingham said. Her choices of language books come in part from the library patrons: if she hears a language mentioned or asked for, she will seek to add that language to the collection. At the suggestion of a board member taking a French class, picture books in French were added; these books aided the language learners, as they felt they were at just the right level of comprehension.
These choices are also derived from a desire for diversity and representation among the books in the library. “Even if there was not a single Spanish speaker in this town,” Ingham said, “I feel we would still need books in Spanish just to show that they exist.”
The numbers at the Library are sparse: The multilingual children’s room collection takes up part of a small shelf, and the teen room collection consists of 20 books in a shelf near the back.
“It’s not very big at all,” Ingham said. “It’s growing, it’s a baby.”
To obtain more books, Ingham hunts on her own and uses resources from publishers. A Penguin Random House newsletter on new releases in Spanish helps her stay up to date on the latest Spanish language books. Donations from community members, as well as help with the identification of languages and translation of titles, are also welcome.
However, the acquisition and circulation of these books does not come without difficulty. Certain languages, such as Spanish, are found frequently among the publishers Ingham orders from. But other languages can be harder to acquire. The young adult section contains the “Hunger Games” trilogy in Spanish. Ingham recalls finding a French translation of the trilogy, but being unable to purchase it as the library’s distributor did not carry it.
And then Ingham must think about how Library patrons will find the new titles. “Our users may not realize we have these books,” she said.
Though it is small, the Library’s world language collections continue to expand. Recent additions to the collection include the Spanish language editions of “Furia” by Yamile Saied Mendez and “Tidesong” by Wendy Xu. Books are ordered “often enough to keep it fresh,” she said, while still balancing it with the needs of the rest of the collection.
Ingham looks to the shelves near the Italian language collection, begun by UNICO Verona, for her goals. The UNICO collection sits on one shelf in the adult fiction section, with a wall of shelves to its left unused for most of the year, until space is needed for the summer reading books. “Even with the summer reading books, there’s space,” she said. She hopes to see an expansion of the world language section across the remaining space these multiple shelves have, and a concentration of these books in one area so patrons know where to find them.
“It’s something I feel we should do for the community because I felt that’s what the library is for,” Ingham said.