Public libraries can be a sanctuary for some, a quiet isolated location where one can alone with ones thoughts or lost in the world of some imagined story bound on the pages of a dusty book tucked away from prying eyes.
Everyone is welcome at the library. Doesnt matter your race, language or culture. As long as you share a love of reading and sharing of information, you will be welcome.
But when it comes to immigrant Hispanics, how often do they take advantage of the open and helpful environment that is the public library?
This group is less likely than other Americans to have ever visited a U.S. public library and is much less likely to say that they see it as very easy to do so, according to the Pew Research Center. This is a startling fact considering this group makes up half of the adult U.S. Hispanic population.
However, those that have made their way to a public library tend to be the ones most appreciative of what libraries have to offer. They also more likely than other groups to say that closing their community library would have a major impact on their family.
Seven-in-ten Latinos ages 16 and older say they have visited a public library or bookmobile in person at one point or another in their lives, according to the research, while 83% of whites and 80% blacks said the same thing.
However, amongst Latinos, there is a noticeable difference. Fully 83% of U.S.-born Latinos say they have visited a public library at some point in their lives while among immigrant Latinos, the figure falls closer to 60%.
Libraries are relatively easy to use for the average English-speaking citizen but foreign-born Hispanics may have more difficulty approaching the system due to their language skills. More than half of foreign-born Hispanics are Spanish-dominant so the availability of Spanish-language materials at public libraries may be a contributing factor.
According to the survey, just one-third of immigrant Hispanics say they would find it very easy to visit a public library in person if they wanted to do so. By comparison, 60% of U.S.-born Hispanics, 67% of whites and 59% of blacks said so.
Yet those Latinos that do manage to use the library are more likely than whites to say that services libraries offer beyond book lending are important. This is especially true among immigrant Latinos, who are three times as likely as whites to say this.
The gap between immigrant Latinos and whites is largest on services such as help finding and applying for a job and help applying for government programs, permits or licenses. Two-thirds (68%) of immigrant Latinos say each of these library services is very important for themselves and their families. Among whites, just 20% say the same about each service.
Public libraries used to offer books, but over the years, they have grown to become community centers and hubs for technology. Hopefully, foreign-born Hispanics will realize that libraries are there for them to use with so much to offer.