Children filed into the room with their parents. They know the drill - get a musical instrument, a rectangle of carpet and sit down facing the storyteller.
Kevin Gonzales, 6, picked up two sticks with ridges to bang together. He tried to poke the sticks up his noise despite his mother's admonitions.
His 4-year-old sister, Samantha Gonzales, chose two sticks as well. Then she sat on her square of carpet, and snuggled close to her mother, Adriana Gonzales. Other parents settled on chairs in the back.
Carmela Hoffman led the children in songs with hand motions, told a story about a spider in Africa, read a picture book about a flying grandmother and finally started a movie about Farmer Brown's typing cows based on a book about the same subject.
It could have been any story time at the Lodi Public Library - except that on Wednesday nights at 7, Cuentos en Espanol (Spanish story time) occupies the room at the back of the children's library.
Almost all of the activities are in Spanish.
This event is evidence of the library's move toward dispersing information to all members of its community.
Lately it has been trying to improve its collection of non-English resources, reach out to the literacy-challenged community through its Adult Literacy Services and upgrade the accessibility of its computer lab.
A little Lodi library history
The Lodi library has always served non-English speaking immigrants in the community. In 1908, when the library became free and public, it had to respond to a growing German-speaking community.
Lodi historian Ralph Lea remembers in the 1930s when he could walk down the street and encounter three men speaking German on a corner, and attend one of 10 German-only church services in town.
Lea's grandfather was one of the German immigrants who never learned English.
When Lea asked him why, his grandfather told him that learning English was a nice idea, but all his friends and relatives spoke German.
The Lodi Public Library's collection of German books lives on today. The German "Gone With the Wind" was last checked out in 2000.
The library also had access to a French and Italian book collection that they share with other libraries in the area, said Sandy Smith, a reference librarian.
It seems like Lodi might have been ahead of its time.
Kevin Starr, the head librarian for the State of California, said non-English books didn't became a priority in California until the late-1960s.
"Since then, the California State Library has spent a lot of money to buy books in languages such as Spanish, Farsi, Chinese and many other languages," he said.
Serving the community
Smith and fellow librarian Behjat Kerdegari, a reference and young adult literature librarian, are a part of a team that has been working hard to increase the growing collection of resources for the community's non-English speakers - a resource that is in great demand.
"The best thing about the library is that all its services are free. This is especially important for people who have to choose between eating or paying for English classes," Smith said.
Kerdegari said that according to January 2003 records, all of the books in Spanish had been checked out of the library at least once in 2002.
The Spanish collection includes many practical books such as legal and employment advice, fictional literature and entertainment photo novellas (books with pictures). Flyers advertising free events and community services in Spanish also adorn the shelves.
In addition to books, the library offers music and videos in Spanish as well.
Jim Tinder, the children's librarian, has everything in his collection from music in Spanish ("Fiesta Musical") and French ("Le chant Des Enfants de Monde"), to Bluegrass and Blues music.
The library also subscribes to "La Voz," a Spanish newspaper, and a news publication in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, also spoken in India.
The children's library activities are open to all children, with activity calendars published in Spanish and English.
"Cuentos en Espanol" is the only event specifically for Spanish-speaking children, but many families attending also try to bring their children to the English story-time as well.
Many non-English speaking parents struggle with the issue of teaching their children both the language of their heritage and the language of their new culture.
Amelia Delgado has been bringing her 5-year-old daughter, Selena, to Cuentos for the last two years. She wants her daughter to be able to speak Spanish with her relatives, but Selena only wants to speak English.
Micaela Toledo has been coming to the library for about eight years and currently brings her daughter, Lizeth Toledo, 10. She mentioned that many more parents would enjoy Spanish story time if they knew about it.
"The library should send flyers in Spanish to schools. Since parents try to read everything that their kids bring home from school, they would definitely see the flyer," Micaela Toledo said.
Hoffman, who has been in charge of Spanish story time for four years, recommended the library create a program to assist children who have Spanish speaking parents and their families, with homework in English.
Tinder said the children's section also needs more bilingual books. The children's library has reached out to its non-English speaking community with special programs like the musical group "Colibri," who sang Spanish folk songs.
Recently there have requests for books in Urdu.
Kerdegari has a personal connection the East-Asian community of Lodi. She speaks Farsi and can read Urdu, and said 80 percent of the families from this community are highly educated in their own countries and know to come to the library for resources although they may be intimidated at first by the magnitude of the American library.
Taj Khan, a leader in the Lodi Pakistani community, agrees with Kerdegari on that point adding that eventually people prize the library once they see the wealth of information it offers.
"Some additional resources in Urdu would be nice," Khan said.
Non-English book challenges
In order for librarians to begin non-English book collections, they must overcome several hurdles, Smith said.
First, they must locate book distributors who can ensure books with quality bindings and paper so that the collection will survive years of circulation.
Second, they must find books that have been reviewed by peers to make sure the book does not contain offensive or inappropriate materials.
Finally, the library must have the funds to pay for the collection, which is more expensive than other books because of shipping and other factors, Smith said.
"I imagine that in five to 10 years the problems that make books in other languages inaccessible will be solved, but until that time, librarians have to think of creative ways to get these resources," Kerdegari said.
Library Director Nancy Martinez said the library has used focus groups and surveys to come up with the needs and desires of specific communities, but that it hasn't been easy to carry on a dialogue with communities who might not always use the library.
Adult services, computer lab
Adult Literacy Services is designed to reach out to the literacy-challenged community through one-on-one tutoring. Although the program is not specifically aimed at English language learners, (participants must be somewhat fluent in English to qualify for the program), many of the students who are involved in the program have learned English as a second or third language.
Stephanie Allen, the director of the ALS since 2000, said one of the hardest parts of her job is limiting the participants.
"Most people that call feel they would make more progress with one-on-one tutoring than in a classroom setting, but I have to refer them to the Lodi Adult School if they don't speak English somewhat fluently," she said.
Currently ALS supports 60 pairs of tutors and students ranging from ages 18 to 92.
"This one-on-one interaction is a most effective way for understanding and compassion between cultures to develop. Though this understanding is not a stated goal of ours, it is an unavoidable result," Allen said.
Jessie Ryan is an AmeriCorps volunteer who will be working through the next year to improve access to the library's computer lab.
The last two months she has already increased the computer lab's availability by 75 percent - it is open and accessible more hours and staffed by people who are knowledgeable in the area of computer technology.
Even with this increase, Ryan said the lab is still turning away dozens of people who would like to use the computer. She wants to continue to make the lab accessible to seniors and people who may be intimidated by technology.
"Once people are armed with English literacy, computer literacy should be the next focus because 65 percent of today's jobs require knowledge in this area," Ryan said.
She also wants to increase the number of computer lab volunteers who are bilingual, and offer classes and one-on-one tutorials to people in Spanish as well as English.
At "Cuentos en Espanol," all eyes are on Hoffman as the group sings a Spanish version of "Old McDonald had a farm."
The crew goes through a list of animals - the gatito (little cat) goes "miau, miau" and the burrito (little donkey) says "ija, ija."
The tune and the words are different but the ideas are the same. Children come away from the activity with an increased curiosity for the art of words and literacy.
And, librarians agree, children like Adriana and Kevin Gonzales who spend time in the library and bring their parents begin a cycle of literacy that lasts for generations.
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