The North Riverside Public Library is increasing efforts to attract Spanish-speaking residents to its doors, almost tripling the size of the library’s Spanish-language book collection within the past six months and creating programs to serve those patrons.

In coming years, the library will be budgeting funds to increase its collection even more to meet the needs of the community’s growing Hispanic population.

“We’re trying to reach out to community members who are not native English speakers,” said library Director Natalie Starosta. “Our goal is to reach everybody in the community and make them feel welcome.”

Earlier this year, the library took possession of 350 new Spanish-language book titles thanks in part to a $5,000 “Back to Books” grant from the Illinois Secretary of State and the American Library Association, which offers grants each year to help librarians attend the FIL International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Last November, the ALA provided a grant to North Riverside Public Library, and Lizzy Boden, head of adult services, made the trip.

“It was like nothing I’d ever experienced,” Boden said. “It was mind-boggling, absolutely overwhelming.”

Working with a vendor called Latin American Book Source, a college-age translator helped Boden navigate the book fair – the second largest in the world behind the annual fair in Frankfurt, Germany – and Boden also brought a list of materials the library was hoping to add.

“We focused mostly on adult books, but we bought a fairly good selection of children’s books as well,” Boden said.

The first shipment of books ordered at the Guadalajara book fair arrived in January, with the rest coming last month. The haul added dramatically to a collection that numbered about 150 books previously.

Starosta, who took the reins of the library in early 2018, said room for the new, growing collection was made on the main floor of the building during an overhaul of the space last September.

The Spanish-language titles can be found not too far away from the fireplace/lounge area of the main floor. According to Boden, the library board is planning on setting aside funds in future budgets to increase the collection and perhaps fund future buying trips to the Guadalajara book fair.

“I’m really hoping to go again,” Boden said.

In addition to the new books, the Children’s Services Department recently started a Bilingual Storytime program on Wednesday mornings for kids ages 2-5. Boden this month also initiated a Spanish-language book club for adults, Club Lectura en Español, which meets monthly in the morning. Attendance has been small, but steady and the program is open to all, said Boden, not just native Spanish speakers. Already feedback is indicating that the library may want to consider an evening program.

“We’re working on it to make that happen,” Boden said.

And, on Saturday, April 6 the library will launch its new Conversation Café, a language exchange program where native Spanish speakers and native English speakers can learn together.

According to Boden, participants will take on topics, alternating in Spanish and English to hone their skills and get feedback.

The library’s website now also has an “Español” link on its home page, which provides information about materials and programs in Spanish.

“The demographics keep changing,” said Starosta, who estimated North Riverside’s Hispanic population at about 40 percent. “We want to be sure we’re embracing that part of the community.”