About two years ago, I was just getting the hang of things in my first librarian position in a new area for me. The librarian before me established a storytime for every Saturday that was mostly attended by one or two families every other week. Despite having low attendance, it was a well-loved program for those who did participate, and very often the families that came were immigrants still learning English. We had a Chinese family, but mostly we had a few Latino families who rotated coming with their school-age kids.
A couple months into my job, I was stopped while I was packing up after a storytime and headed back into the library. The man identified himself as a city official and then commented that we seemed to have a lot of Mexicans coming to the library. He made some further uncomfortable remarks to me that made me question how much I wanted to stay in the area if a public servant could feel confident saying those things to me. I powered through, but I’ve never forgotten that moment. It was the first time I’d encountered outspoken racism and the first time someone had tried to pressure me for it.
As a new joint chief for Storytime Underground, I’ve had the benefit of networking with six other amazing professional women, two of whom (Mary and Holly) are fluent Spanish speakers. They’ve helped me learn about building more inclusive programs and because of them, I decided to include activities in Spanish in every storytime, even when there are no Spanish-speaking families present. As I build relationships with families more and more unlike myself, I find myself wanting the challenge of diversity in my professional life every day.
So when Día offered mini-grants to celebrate their 20th anniversary, I went for it. My library system has never celebrated Día de los Niños before this year, and in fact, we’ve really only ever done one other big program targeting Latino families. I wanted to see us step up and show our commitment to this community by investing in a festival to blow everyone’s minds.
When applying for the grant, I made a rookie mistake. I thought about what our library system needed rather than what the community wanted and what resources were available. We are in the beginning stages of offering more services for babies and toddlers and I wanted something that could help the Latino community discover these new services. That’s not really a terrible motivation, but I learned while planning this event that starting with what you want is not the best way to go.
Initially my plan was to host a Community Baby Festival, but after the grant application was accepted and I started building the event, it evolved into something a little different, but better.
More on this to come, but here’s a sneak peek.