¡Hola! Learning Spanish to Build Connections at the Library

Guest blog from Julie Twiss, Library Associate II in Adult Services at Westminster's College Hill Library

In the ever-evolving landscape of libraries, the ability to connect with our diverse communities is a constant. Like most library staff that interact with the public, I frequently serve patrons that do not speak English. With 22.5% of the population in Colorado identifying as Hispanic or Latino and 10.9% speaking Spanish, more often than not those interactions are with patrons who speak Spanish. Library staff are incredibly resourceful people, and we have many ways to work around language barriers with translation apps and services. But, there is nothing like being able to communicate directly in a patron’s preferred language to make them feel welcome and build connections to the library and wider community. As library staff, our goal is to serve and connect with every member of the community. Language is a powerful tool for building trust and connection.

When the opportunity to join the Español for Library Folx group came around, I was so excited to get to participate. This 8 week course through the Colorado State Library is a way for library staff with any level of Spanish language experience to practice conversational skills focused on common library situations. My previous Spanish experience was from high school and Duolingo. While I did okay with basic written and (very slowly) spoken Spanish – I would freeze up when it was my turn to speak. I was happy to learn from others in the group that I am far from the only one in this learning stage and feeling nervous about how I sound or what to say.

In the Español for Library Folx group that meets weekly for an hour on zoom, we divide up into small groups for beginners and those that are more advanced. In the beginners group, we review a set of library specific vocabulary and then practice asking and answering questions about our collections, programs, and services. We also read and discuss some picture books that illustrate a visit to the library and highlight some cultural differences for those that grew up in another country. I have come to love 2 of these books and highly recommend them to anyone learning library Spanish:

  • Lola en la Biblioteca, by Anna McQuinn
  • Soñadores, by Yuyi Morales

Learning Spanish is more than just a skill; it’s a commitment to creating an inclusive and welcoming space for everyone. Participating in the Español for Library Folx group has helped me to build language skills and gain confidence in my ability to communicate and better serve everyone in my community.


For more about serving Spanish-speakers and Latines in your library, visit Spanish for Libraries on the Colorado State Library website.

Scroll to the bottom of that page for resources from the Español for Library Folx Spanish practice and conversation for librarians and library staff materials including program information, library vocabulary, and flash cards.

Cristy Moran