The Bellingham Public Library invites Whatcom County residents to explore its Hispanic heritage-themed content not only during National Hispanic Heritage Month but year round.
In the past month, the Bellingham Public Library has highlighted its books, staff-recommended reading lists, CDs, DVDs and in-house displays in honor and celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month. They encourage all community members to utilize these resources to better their understanding of Hispanic culture.
“It's important for community members of Latin American heritage to discover materials that they may see themselves in. But I think probably the most important is for our community members to learn about experiences that might be different from their own,” said Bellingham Public Library Head of Community Relations Annette Bagley.
The library offers three reading lists tailored toward adults, teens and children. Additionally, in September 2022 the library hired a children's librarian who speaks Spanish and has been hosting storytimes, which has helped create an inclusive space.
Western Washington University Director of Multicultural Student Services Amy Salinas Westmoreland spoke from personal experience that utilizing literature and the Bellingham Public Library can help people who identify with both Hispanic and non-Hispanic identities have a more well-rounded understanding of the culture.
“Identity development doesn’t just happen because you are or you identify as. Being Mexican, for me, doesn’t mean that all of a sudden I understand everything. I don't,” Westmoreland said. “In order to start having a better understanding of my own identities I have to do some of that work. And that work starts with literature.”
Bagley said it is important to create a space that honors and celebrates Hispanic culture. It’s through these celebrations that the library achieves its mission.
“The library really works hard at promoting equity, diversity and inclusion, and we also want our materials to inspire community members to learn about each other,” Bagley said.
Arcelia Duran is Western's Latine Student Union community outreach leader. LSU chose to use the term “Latine” as opposed to the gendered “Latino” because they wanted verbiage that was inclusive to everyone, regardless of gender. Duran works to collaborate with Latine-owned businesses in Bellingham to host events for LSU. They believe that this outreach and immersion in the community is crucial because it helps LSU students know there are supportive places they can go.
“I am Mexican, but I come from not a very traditional family,” Duran said. “So I think that when different libraries or different spaces offer resources that are connected with the Latine community, it’s a great gateway for everyone to find out that all of these things exist and just recognize the community as a whole.”
When the library does a themed month, Bagley tries to read one of the books from the staff-recommended reading lists. For Hispanic Heritage Month, she chose to read “Our Migrant Souls” by Héctor Tobar. The book is a “meditation on race and the meanings and myths of ‘Latino,’” according to its description. She highly recommends this book for students and community members who enjoy the adult nonfiction genre.
Bagley hopes themed months are just the starting point for community members to immerse themselves in content surrounding different cultures.
“These themes allow us to promote different areas of our collection and allow people to discover materials that maybe they didn't know about, or they didn't think about,” Bagley said. “Hopefully reading, listening or watching through one material will inspire someone and lead them to the next material and to continue to explore throughout the year.”
The Bellingham Public Library has Hispanic Heritage Month-themed sections in a variety of locations. For more information on the locations and hours, you can visit their website.
Sophie Cadran(she/her) is a city news reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a second-year journalism student at Western with a minor in communication studies. In her free time, she enjoys getting outside with friends and family, reading and swimming.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org