“The poem, the song, the picture, is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink—and in drinking understand …
“The poem, the song, the picture, is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink—and in drinking understand themselves.” -Federico Garcia Lorca
More than books and access to the arts alone, the modern library has evolved to serve as a neighborhood hub, a central repository, offering invaluable resources and services for our entire community. As this week marks the overlap of National Library Card Sign-Up Month (September) and Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), and, given my desire to better communicate with Patchogue’s growing Hispanic population, I began using my library card to access the Rosetta Stone language program. In so doing, my eyes were opened to the vast pool of resources the library already offers our Hispanic community—and those of us seeking to learn more about—and join in the celebration of—our neighbors’ culture and heritage.
Joined by Patchogue Village’s first Hispanic trustee, Lizbeth Carrillo, I had the opportunity to sit down with head of public services Michele Cayea and librarian Trinee Joshua Tanski to learn more. From bilingual signage, to program offerings like English as a Second Language (ESL) and citizenship courses, to the innumerable books and multi-media resources highlighting Hispanic voices, our local library truly has become a bottomless well of both art and resources.
“Because of her experiences here, my daughter now loves libraries; it’s where she wants to go while we’re on vacation. The community feels so comfortable and welcome at our library. It really has become like a second home,” said Carrillo, who is working on bringing the village’s first Hispanic Cultural parade to Patchogue on Oct. 2.
Under the leadership of library director Danielle Paisley, the Patchogue-Medford Library has taken a full team approach to engaging our community in its entirety, ensuring all residents feel as at home as trustee Carrillo and her daughter do. And, as roughly 35 to 40 percent—nearly 1 in 2—library patrons are Hispanic, it is fitting that our library serve the needs of both the English as well as Spanish-speaking communities.
After learning Spanish using the Rosetta Stone program, assistant director Jennifer Bollerman is now leading Spanish classes for Patchogue-Medford Library’s staff and is working to bring such courses back to the general public as well.
The Community Access to Resources and Education (CARE) program, formerly the Spanish Outreach initiative, has been expanded under the leadership of Lissetty Thomas to serve the needs of Patchogue-Medford’s entire community.
“I grew up in a low-income household with Spanish-speaking parents, often responsible for translating sensitive information beyond my scope as an 80-year-old. What I try to do here is give parents resources for sensitive topics, to be here for our community in every capacity,” said Thomas, who is proud of the relationships the library has developed with other organizations like the Patchogue-Medford School District, the Latino Leadership Council, and Sepa Mujer.
In addition to assisting with book resources or offering ESL courses, the library, through CARE, offers assistance with SNAP applications, a passive food pantry run in partnership with Island Harvest, and access to onsite social workers and community service workers. A peer-to-peer parents’ support group, Madres Latinas, was created through the library’s partnership with the local school district, and while language access and improving communications between schools and Spanish-speaking parents was the catalyst, the group’s mission has expanded, allowing more established parents to help other parents transition to their new home.
“Every community has assets… and our library is right at the center, right in the heart of our community, providing education, literacy, and diversity. It is extremely important that our library provide these resources for the diverse community we have here in Patchogue,” said Patchogue mayor Paul Pontieri, who was on hand for a tour of the library’s offerings.
One of the things both Pontieri and Paisley are most proud of is the Carnegie Library, which provides child and teen resources, from homework assistance to offering a safe environment for children of working parents.
“The Carnegie Library now offers programs for young adults and is a true testament to the library’s leadership and what they are as an entity,” said Pontieri.
Our public libraries truly are the cup from which we can drink to learn who we are—as individuals, as neighbors, and as members of a shared and diverse culture and community. Get your library card. Raise your cup. And drink from the inexhaustible well—the spring of culture, arts, and resources–that is our local Patchogue-Medford Library.
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