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Developing Spanish Collections for Incarcerated Adults and At-Risk Youth

Developing Spanish Collections for Incarcerated Adults and At-Risk Youth

We’re committed to serving patrons at the county jail, juvenile shelter and corrections center.
Woman wearing glasses stands next to stacks of young adult novels in English and Spanish

WCCLS is supporting incarcerated patrons and other underserved communities by providing them a diverse collection of books in Spanish. Collections are being developed for three facilities in Washington County: County Jail, Harkins House (juvenile shelter) and Community Corrections Center. Each collection, containing more than 100 books, is tailored to meet the distinct needs of the patrons residing at each facility.

The books at the Community Corrections Center were dated and the Spanish offerings were limited, says Magdianamy Carrillo-Sotomayor, Bilingual Collection Development Librarian at WCCLS. She thoughtfully curated the collection to include both bilingual (English/Spanish) books and Spanish-only books. Non-fiction topics range from self-help and learning English to trade skills and business. Her hope is to empower patrons.

“Each book was selected thinking of the rehabilitation process and how the power of literature can help people overcome their past,” says Carrillo-Sotomayor. “I personally believe that reading creates an experience of transformation for the reintegration into society and preparation for people’s future release.”

The collection also includes works by popular Spanish-language authors such as Isabel Allende and Gabriel García Marquez alongside activity books such as crosswords, word searches, and Sudoku.

The jail already maintains its own library, partially funded by WCCLS. As part of this grant-funded initiative, the jail library is receiving books similar to the collection WCCLS created for the Community Corrections Center. In addition, the jail’s collection includes educational and teaching materials to support ESL (English as a second language) learners, GED (General Education Development) prep and citizenship classes.

This is the first time Harkins House, a short-term temporary residential care and evaluation program that houses youth ages 12 to 17, will have a library collection – a bilingual one, nonetheless. A wish list from Harkins House inspired the collection, which includes popular series like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. It would not be complete without bestselling titles like The Hate U Give and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.

In 2021, WCCLS received American Rescue Plan Act grants totaling $7,125 from the State Library of Oregon. These funds helped purchase books for our newest library collections.

The grant was focused on equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism. Our goal is to better serve the recreational, educational and personal needs of incarcerated and vulnerable patrons, many of whom speak Spanish.

WCCLS has started delivering books to the facilities. The rest of the collections are expected to be in place by the end of summer. The list includes some best-sellers, critically acclaimed titles and fiction novels.

“I want patrons to have fun, too,” says Carrillo-Sotomayor.