Reacting to growing demand from librarians who don’t speak Spanish but are looking to establish Spanish-language collections to serve patrons, EBSCO Information Services launched NoveList’s Core Collection en Español in October 2022. The service offers librarians listings, reviews, and metadata for approximately 7,000 titles in Spanish. The books are divided into three self-explanatory categories—essential, recommended, and supplemental—and cover all topics, from fiction, nonfiction and children’s and YA books to other, more fundamental material such as cookbooks and study guides.
“The need for Spanish-language content hasn’t changed in a decade, it’s the demand that has changed, especially as the demographics of the United States are evolving,” says Maria Fonseca-Gonzalez, a NoveList librarian and curator. Fonseca-Gonzalez was part of the team of three that initially selected titles to go into the program. A second-generation immigrant with a Puerto Rican mother and a Mexican father, Fonseca-Gonzalez is a specialist in young adult nonfiction and has worked in libraries throughout the Chicagoland metroplex and suburbs.
The demand is greatest for children’s and YA titles, both in Spanish and in bilingual editions, and more than half the books on the EBSCO platform comprise children’s books and middle grade titles, Fonseca-Gonzalez explains, noting that it is not uncommon for parents who solely speak Spanish to have children who are bilingual. “Many immigrant parents may want to Americanize their kids and prefer they speak in English,” she says. “As a collection development librarian who can speak and read Spanish decently enough, finding the right books was a challenge even for me.”
As such, the platform catered to those who do not have expertise in Spanish literature and are likely unfamiliar with Spanish-language publishing trends and sources. EBSCO has enlisted a group of advisers and librarians from around the country to offer suggestions to how to help populate the database. Among the other resources included are reviews from Publishers Weekly en Español as well as original Spanish book titles and jackets, award information, and dialect guidance to help cater to regional preferences, since published Spanish can take a variety of forms depending on which country it originates from.
Demand for Core Collection en Español has been especially high in California, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as in Florida and New York. Demand has not been limited to border states or those with large immigrant populations, however. Other states where there has been demand include Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington.
Furthermore, according to a study conducted by Pew Research in 2000, in eight states, 20% or more of kindergartners were Hispanic. By 2017, that was true of 18 states plus the District of Columbia—including some that historically had few Hispanics, such as Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Washington. Librarians are especially keen to pay attention to today’s kindergartners, as they are tomorrow’s readers.
“Providing new and exciting titles for Spanish speakers is important, but seeing that representation in books and then making them accessible to the communities through our libraries is equally important,” says Diana Miranda-Murillo, Spanish and world languages selector for the Austin Public Library and a Core Collections en Español project adviser and contributor. “Spanish-language collections in libraries are a cultural bridge, and a way to feel welcome in a community away from home. I have had patrons tell me that when they walked in and saw the books in Spanish, they felt that they matter.”
She adds, “We have people coming in from many different Spanish speaking countries, educational levels, and economic backgrounds, which means the interests of the members of this community are very diverse as well. We make sure our collection reflects that diversity.”
“One way to advance this agenda,” Fonseca-Gonzales says, “is to make Spanish collections integrated into your regular fold. Include Spanish titles into displays and integrate them into everything you are doing. This is how you engage the community: by making them feel welcome.”
NoveList’s Core Collection en Español offers publisher data but no mechanism for librarians to purchase the books directly. These need to be sourced through typical distribution channels, or sometimes, Fonseca-Gonzalez says, through eBay or Amazon. “If a book is deemed especially important,” she says, “we have allowed the inclusion of titles that may be difficult to find so librarians can be aware of them.”
Monthly updates ensure the database is current, with books coming on and falling off the platform routinely. And despite the growing number of Spanish-languages titles being published and sold in the U.S., Fonseca-Gonzalez identifies several gaps in the market. “While there is a lot of fiction that uses folklore and cultural history as its basis, there’s not a lot of slice-of-life material,” she says. “Also, in nonfiction it is difficult to find materials on contemporary issues facing kids, like cyberbullying, eating disorders, mental health, social media, and sports, for example. Other areas of need include study guides, college prep, cooking, current affairs, and even pop culture.”
Fonseca-Gonzalez says the plan is to continue to refine the Core Collection platform based on feedback from users. “We are constantly hearing back from our advisers and clients as to what areas people might have interest in that we need to grow or haven’t touched on yet,” she notes. “Our goal is simply to keep an eye on products and keep things fresh, so librarians can offer the best selection of titles available to their Spanish-speaking and -reading patrons.”
NoveList’s top five tips for those who are starting or building Spanish-language collections:
1. Don’t segregate your displays. Include bestsellers published in English and translated into Spanish; feature them with English language titles in your book displays.
2. For children’s collections, select stories steeped in folklore and/or centered on family, and topics all kids enjoy like starting school or getting a new sibling.
3. Teens like to read stories with relatable characters with coming-of-age themes, friendship drama, and social issues. Teenage angst is universal! Pro tip: make sure you have a few magical realism stories on your list.
4. For adult readers, include books focused on politics, topics related to their countries of origin, and books about regaining or supporting Hispanic heritage.
5. Spread a wide net when looking for titles. Follow awards like the Premio Planeta de Novela in Spain and the U.S.-based International Latino Book Awards.