Librarians learn Spanish to help patrons

With the increase of Spanish-speaking people on Vashon, three staff members from Vashon Library have begun learning Spanish so they are better able to communicate with library patrons.

They are learning the language through Spanish Boot Camp, an experimental program of the King County Library System, tailored to library staff and their Spanish-language needs in the workplace.

With only six weeks of the 10-week language class behind her, Hester Kremer, manager of the Vashon branch, said the class has already proven helpful.

“I’ve been able to use it already with three or four patrons,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed being able to use Spanish words with patrons, and they’ve appreciated it as well.”

Kremer, Rayna Holtz and Chelsea Weimer gather each Wednesday morning for two hours with former Islander and teacher Brenda Howell to learn how to help Spanish-speakers register for library cards, find books and navigate on the computer. They are also studying at home, using library tapes, CDs and Mango, the library system’s foreign language database available to any patron wanting to learn a language.

Kremer noted that she sometimes now goes to sleep listening to Spanish, flooding her brain with the rhythm of the language.

“We’re learning quite a bit in a very short period of time,” she said.

All three are enjoying the process and plan to continue learning when the class is done.

“The chances are good we’ll continue with it and not just lose it,” Holtz said.

According to Kremer, this program dovetails well with other library services for Spanish speakers.

Sally Adam of The Harbor School brings her middle-school Spanish students to the library each week during the school year to help Chautauqua students who speak Spanish as their first language learn English. And while the kids are learning, their parents are welcome to learn English, too, either through a class or a designated “Talk Time.”

Also, the library carries several books, some newspapers, Newsweek and People in Spanish, helpful to both native Spanish speakers and those learning the language.

Throughout the library system, 23 library staff have enrolled in the boot camp, Kremer said, and Vashon is part of that larger picture.

“The main thing is to make (Spanish speakers) feel welcome and comfortable,” Holtz said.

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