In February, MakeMake, the digital library platform for Spanish-language books for young readers and students, was announced as the winner of the 2024 Bologna Ragazzi CrossMedia Award for the Digital Reading Experience given by the Bologna Book Fair. The international recognition represents a major milestone for the company, which was established more than a decade ago in Bogota, Colombia, as a regional platform. But in recent years it has shown rapid growth in the U.S. market, after launching here in the wake of the pandemic.

MakeMake founder Catalina Holguín says that in 2020, when Covid forced school and library closures around the country, she called Alex Correa, CEO of New Jersey–based Spanish-language book distributor and publisher Lectorum. “I’d met Alex at the Guadalajara Book Fair the previous year, and we’d talked about bringing MakeMake to the U.S.,” Holguín recalls. “He wasn’t sure at first, but then the pandemic hit and we were up and running within two weeks.”

When the service launched in the U.S., libraries and schools—including the Austin Public Library and Los Angeles Public Library—quickly responded. Today, the platform counts 18 major public library systems in the U.S. among its customers, including the Queens (N.Y.) Public Library, the King County (Wash.) Public Library, and the Sacramento (Calif.) Public Library, as well as five school districts.

MakeMake offered approximately 1,200 Spanish-language books for young readers at the time of its U.S. launch. That number has now nearly doubled to 2,300, including titles from some 75 publishers across Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico, many of which are “unique to the North American market,” Holguín says. The catalog offers a variety of reading experiences, including roughly 100 interactive books with read-along features and animations, and 120 comic books and graphic novels, in addition to picture books, chapter books, short stories, and poetry.

Holguín notes that the company has faced numerous challenges expanding into the U.S., including translating the platform into English and navigating library organizational structures and purchasing practices. But the biggest challenge, she says, is that many librarians in the U.S. don’t speak Spanish—even those serving Spanish-speaking communities.

“We have to make the platform easy for English speakers to use and understand if they don’t speak Spanish,” Holguín says. Another challenge—albeit a minor one, she notes—is getting people to use the Spanish pronunciation of the company’s name (MAH-kay-MAH-kay). “It is named after a dwarf planet near Pluto, and we named it that way so it would be the exact opposite of the biggest publishing house in Spanish, which is called Planeta,” she says. “We thought it was funny.”