Library offers many bilingual services
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 7, 2006


Dianna M. Nez


Michelle Bernal says she loves reading Hollyhock Branch Library's Dora the Explorer books, and that her little brother, Francisco Bernal, likes books about animals. Michelle's mother, Maria Bernal, is helping her 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son learn to read by sharing their favorite books as a family.

Maria speaks mostly Spanish, and said she would not be able to help her children nearly as much were it not for Hollyhock's bilingual books and librarians.

"I bring the kids as much as I can," she said. "We read the books in Spanish and English." She also enrolled her children in Hollyhock's summer reading program.

Bernal is one of the many Spanish-speaking residents who visit Hollyhock because of its selection of Spanish and bilingual magazines, books, videos and computer software. The library is in Surprise's Original Townsite, which began as a low-income housing community for agriculture workers and is still home to some Latino families struggling to learn English.

Hollyhock librarian Dawn Gregory said she offers programming that will benefit the library's surrounding neighborhood.

"I would say this community has special needs," she said. "Our responsibility is to meet those needs. All libraries are becoming more community-oriented."

Gregory, a trained English as a second language teacher,offers free ESL courses at the library during the school year.

When she and her assistant Lucinda Wood noticed kids were struggling with their studies, they began offering homework assistance after school.

"The kids were reading two to three grades below level," she said. "I encourage them to check out Spanish/English books so their parents can read with them."

While residents say they depend on the library's services, many wish it did not have such limited hours.

Surprise resident Jeanne Maddock, 68, who attends the Senior Center next to the library, laments being unable to check out books because she uses the center's bus for transportation, which leaves before the library opens.

"The bus leaves at noon but the library doesn't open until 1 p.m." she said.
"I absolutely would use the library to get sci-fi and mysteries."

Gregory said she often hears complaints like Maddock's, but after Surprise's Northwest Regional Library opened, Hollyhock's hours were limited to 1-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.