Mariana Bojorquez, EPL’s Latinx Engagement Librarian

The Guadalajara (Mexico) Book Fair, FIL, is the largest book fair in the Western hemisphere. Only the Frankfort Book Fair is larger. More than a million people attend the fair to gain firsthand access to the latest publications in Spanish. More than 300,000 titles are on display.

In 2018 one of those million attendees was Mariana Bojorquez, Evanston Public Library’s Latinx Engagement Librarian. Her visit was sponsored in part by the American Library Association.

Ms. Bojorquez came back from FIL with more than 100 adult and children’s books in Spanish, enabling her to update the Spanish collection, which was largely out of date. “People everywhere want to read the latest books, no matter what language they read,” she says. “Being up-to-date is particularly important in non-fiction books.”

The FIL experience offered an invaluable opportunity for professional networking. “I got to talk to so many librarians. We shared problems and solutions. I found the challenges I face are not unique to Evanston. It was reassuring for me to hear that from other librarians, and to hear what solutions they came up with to try and engage more deeply with their Latinx patrons,” she says.

Ms. Bojorquez would like to make Latinx patrons feel comfortable at the library and view it as a safe, neutral, normal space to be.  She says in the Latinx culture, libraries tend to be formal spaces and are not generally viewed as community centers. Without resources targeted towards that demographic, many Latinx people would not feel comfortable entering such a place.

“The Library is one of the few places in our society that can still be considered a safe space. I want EPL to be that for our Latinx patrons here in Evanston by providing that programming, translating programming that may be of interest to them, and continuously updating the Spanish collection with new adult literature and children’s books,” Ms. Bojorquez says.

The Latinx presence in Evanston, as it is in the nation, is a growing one, now estimated to be about 12% here and nationally 18%.

Since she began at EPL last year, Ms. Bojorquez has engaged more than 30 organizations, including School District 65. “It’s a privilege to go out into the community and talk to the people, to make people feel included in the library,” she says.

She plans to work to better understand the needs of Evanston’s Latinx community and plan more bilingual events targeted toward the Latinx members of the community.