Jeffco Library district introduces new Spanish-language website

Websites had previously been translated using Google Translate


The Jefferson County Public Library is now offering a website and online catalogue that have been enhanced to offer an improved user experience for Spanish-speakers.

Sarah Rudman, the library's digital experience manager, says the library system had previously relied on Google Translate, a free service that translates web pages into different languages, to offer Spanish-speakers access to a translation of the site. The new versions of the website and catalogue, in contrast, are actually written in Spanish rather than merely digitally translated.

“By offering our patron account platform in Spanish and not relying upon Google translate, we're making it easier for Spanish readers to manage their accounts and take full advantage of all the Library offers,” Rudman said.

But the move to offer an actual Spanish-language website rather than just a translation is about more than improving Spanish-speaking user's experience.

“This tells Jeffco's Spanish-speaking population that they are welcome in all of our libraries,” said Jennifer Reading, the library's diversity and digital inclusion manager. “Giving these library users the ability to access our catalogue in the language of their heart is really about showing inclusivity and welcoming people in a way that's familiar and comfortable.”

Reading said feeling welcome and comfortable at the library can be particularly important for Spanish-speakers because free public libraries are not typically available to everyday people in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries the way they are in the US.

The new catalogue will complement the library's existing efforts to break down barriers to library access, which include partnering with schools and other community groups to invite members of those communities to utilize the district's library resources.

In addition to the new Spanish-language website and catalogue, the Jefferson County Public Library has also expanded the number of Spanish-language materials in its collection. Recent additions include more Spanish-language DVDs and Spanish-language versions of the library's Stories to Go kits for kids — consisting of books and activities that reflect themes like the alphabet and dinosaurs.

Those materials are particularly concentrated at the library branches in Arvada, Belmar, Columbine, Edgewater, Lakewood and Wheat Ridge, which data show have the highest Spanish-speaking populations. Reading said it is the library's policy to begin offering more services and materials in other languages once demographic information shows that library serves a community where at least 15% of the people speak that language. However, other district libraries also offer a more limited selection of Spanish language materials.

The district has also been increasing the amount of Spanish language materials in its collection in recent years. Reading said the library spent approximately $25,000 on Spanish materials in 2017. That number doubled in 2018 and increased by an additional 20% to $60,000. However, that number equates to just 0.8% of the entire collection budget, she said.

The library has also sent a staff member to purchase materials at the Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara International Book Fair since 2018. Of the 1,200,000 items in the library's collection, 19,000 are in Spanish.

Not everyone in the Jeffco community, however, is supportive of the library's effort to improve accessibility for Spanish-speakers. Reading said she often hears from residents who question why the library is catering to users who do not speak English and possibly discouraging them from learning it. However, she says such criticisms often miss the point of what the library is trying to do.

“I find the majority of our Spanish-language users want to be American and are doing just that,” she said. “But being able to read a book and engage with it in a native language is a completely different experience and there's something wonderful for most people about being able to read in their native language.”


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