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Brooklyn Public Library

Problem Statement

Brooklyn Public Library has long recognized the special challenges of engaging a Spanish-speaking population, a trend that has been documented nationwide. According to the most current U.S. Census, 16.3% of Brooklyn residents speak Spanish as their primary language. In FY 2007, however, circulation of Spanish-language material represented just 6% of BPL’s world language circulation. The inescapable conclusion is, Spanish-language residents are not borrowing and benefiting from BPL resources at anywhere close to the levels that their demographic prominence within Brooklyn suggests they can be.


As part of its commitment to enhancing services to Brooklyn’s Spanish-speaking communities, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) introduced a new library-on-wheels – the Bibliobús, to Brooklyn neighborhoods in July 2009. The first of its kind in the New York metropolitan area, the Bibliobús is a traveling Spanish-language collection for all ages (books and media) that brings the library to Spanish-speaking communities in Brooklyn.


Spanish-speaking staff conducted outreach, school and daycare visits, senior center visits, community-based organization visits, library card registration, circulation services, programming and special events for the Bibliobús as well as promotion of local branch services, programs, and collections. In addition, the Bibliobús visited 15 regularly scheduled locations in Brooklyn (7 per week in summer/fall and 8 per week in winter/spring).

As of February 2010, the Bibliobús, which holds about 2,000 Spanish-language library books and multimedia material, has circulated over 5,000 items and registered over 712 new library card holders. From July thru December 2009, over 2,041 people (all ages) have participated in class visits, programs, and special events with the Bibliobús. An additional 2620 people have visited the Bibliobús at regularly scheduled visits.

Anecdotes from the Bibliobús user survey (over 400 completed) indicate that one of the barriers to greater use of the Library by Spanish-speakers was trouble accessing the nearest local library due to limited branch service hours, distance or transportation issues. People expressed great satisfaction that the Bibliobús was a library that came to them. Other barriers to library use have been identified in the recent Community Needs Assessment including fear due to immigration issues, significant language barriers, lack of collections in their language, and lack of marketing. The Bibliobús, significantly smaller and less formal than a library branch, is seen as less intimidating or official. The congenial, outgoing staff also contributes to the informal atmosphere on the Bibliobús. As fluent Spanish-speakers, the staff is able to discuss Library programs and services, provide reference services and collections in the language the customer is most comfortable using. To market local branch activities, flyers translated into Spanish are kept on the Bibliobús. In addition, information about the Bibliobús and the application to book it for special events is available on the Brooklyn Public Library website.