The Library and Latino Community
In the late 1970s, the Library began actively recruiting Latino librarians and offering bilingual services and programs to help address the informational needs of the growing Latino population in Newark. A Spanish hotline was created for Spanish speakers to call and have their questions addressed by a Spanish speaking librarian. A Spanish language book collection was expanded on for the community to borrow and read materials in their language. Additionally, bilingual outreach services and programs were initiated to inform the Latino population of the library’s resources.
Within a decade, the Latino community became more diverse as the fastest growing immigrant group in the city. Annual Hispanic Heritage celebrations were initiated to celebrate their rich history and diverse cultures and to acknowledge the many achievements they’ve made. In 1989, La Sala Hispanoamericana was established to house the largest Spanish language book collection of any public library in the state and to provide a welcoming space for the Spanish dominant patron.
As the Latino population continued to increase and grow older, their history was being lost. By 2000, when the Latino population accounted for 13% of the state’s total population, there was no institution recording their history. Through the Latino community’s advocacy and fundraising support, the New Jersey Hispanic Research & Information Center at The Newark Public Library (NJHRIC) was founded to document the history of New Jersey’s Latino community. The NJHRIC incorporated La Sala Hipsanoamericana and created the Puerto Rican Community Archive and Hispanic Reference Collection.
Today, thousands of digitized images documenting the history of New Jersey’s Latino community are available on our digital website, https://digital.npl.org. We’ve expanded our outreach efforts to include virtual programming with LIVE streaming through social media to audiences worldwide. And we’re looking forward to a new space that will physically accommodate all that NJHRIC has to offer.
On display is evidence of these milestones and artifacts from the community that made it possible.