Cross Cultural Communicators in Libraries

Cross Cultural Communicators in Libraries

About the Project




The Hispanic population in the United States has reached nearly 58 million in 2016, 18% of the nation’s population and was the second-largest racial or ethnic group. They are drawn from an increasingly diverse mix of countries; 63.2% Mexican origin, 9.5% Puerto Rican, 3.8% Salvadoran, 3.9% Cuban, 3.3% Dominican and 2.5% Guatemalan. In 2015, more than 37 million Latinos ages 5 and older in the U.S. speak Spanish at home, making it the country’s most common non-English language.

The project addresses a significant challenge faced by front-line librarians and library support staff in an increasingly multicultural and multilingual society we live in. How do we communicate with and provide desired services to our communities when substantial portions of our residents do not speak English? How do we develop engagements that are culturally responsive and effective?

This two-year project develops and delivers online modules and in-person training for 350 Spanish speaking bilingual library professionals in New Jersey, Queens, New York, Connecticut and California. The project ultimately aims to strengthen public libraries in meeting the needs of its Spanish-speaking communities by means of training bilingual front-line librarians and library support staff to communicate effectively with non-English speaking patrons.

Participants applying to the Cross Cultural Competence in Libraries Project commit to the following:

  • Watch the Series of five Webinars on Cultural Competence (duration: each webinar is one-hour and self-paced)
  • Attend a Face-to-Face Library Professional Interpreter Training (in the location nearest to them in New Jersey, Queens, N.Y., Connecticut or California)

By the end of the Training, Library Professionals will be able to:

Cultural Competence

  • Understand concepts of Cultural Competency
  • Explain the need for culturally responsive services
  • Identify and utilize universal strategies communicating across various Hispanic communities
  • Articulate basic knowledge of the Immigration system

Translation and Interpretation Skills

  • Recognize the basic differences between interpreting roles
  • Develop strong communicative abilities and skills in actual interpretations
  • Work with the principles of an interpreter that are important to ensure the ethical practice of the profession

Who can apply?

Open to any library professional who is bilingual in Spanish and English and works in a public library setting in one of the project partners’ region (New Jersey, Connecticut and California or in NY only open to Queens Public Library staff)

How is ‘bilingual’ defined? 

Someone who is able to communicate in two languages with equal fluency. In this project, we welcome participants who self-identify themselves as bilingual Spanish/English speakers.

Who are considered ‘library professionals’?

We use the term ‘library professionals’ to refer to MLS-degreed librarians, library technicians, and library assistants. This project is open to bilingual Spanish/English speaking individuals who work in a public library setting including volunteers and other staff (approved by the library administration).

How much will this cost?

There is no cost for participation.

I’d love to participate but do not live in one of the project partners’ states. Can you help?

 The cultural competence webinar series, clearinghouse of learning materials and samples, etc. will be made freely available online after the grant period ends. The project team is committed to continuing to offer guidance and support for libraries that will try to model this project for their own staff development training.

Questions? Contact:

  • Mimi Lee, Project Director, Diversity and Literacy Consultant, New Jersey State Library, at 609-278-2640, x191, or
  • Paula Guzman-Bell, Project Coordinator for Cross Cultural Communicators in Libraries, New Jersey State Library, at 609-278-2640, x169, or

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These services were made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.