Maria Magdaleno spent a recent morning at the La Habra Branch of the Orange County Library, browsing through its collection of Spanish-language books.
“I like to read about medical and scientific advances,” she said in Spanish. “These books provide that information in my native language, and the magazines give me information about what’s happening in Latin American countries. The Spanish Reader’s Digests are my favorite.”
Magdaleno, a La Habra resident for more than two decades, said she also frequently checks out instructional books that teach step-by-step techniques for completing different projects.
She’s not alone in tapping the La Habra Branch, which has one of the largest Spanish-language book, video and audio collections in the county, with more than 3,500 books and several hundred movies, records and cassettes.
Spanish-speaking residents borrow books to do everything from learning how to fix a car engine to making exotic foods or ensuring a healthy pregnancy, library officials said.
Young mothers frequently are spotted in the library searching for children’s books to read to their children in Spanish, said Teresa Kennedy, a library assistant.
“Most of the mothers don’t speak English, but they want to read to their children in Spanish because they know it’s important,” Kennedy said. “They don’t want (their children) to forget their language and culture, so they keep it alive through books. I think that’s wonderful. I just wish we could have a bigger collection.”
In recent months, Spanish book deliveries have been dwindling in numbers, and videos stopped coming in July due to budget cuts, Kennedy said.
Branch manager Teri Garza said people know about the library’s collection of Spanish books solely through word of mouth.
While not as many new books will be filling the shelves in the foreseeable future, more people are checking them out. Fifty percent of all the magazines checked out at the library are in Spanish, Garza said.
“There is a real need for these books,” Garza said, noting that about a third of La Habra’s population is Latino. “We want to mirror the community.”
She said the Spanish collection makes up about 10% of the entire library, while 15% of all the books in circulation are Spanish.
The regional branch library in Garden Grove has the largest Korean-language collection, while the Westminster Branch has the largest Vietnamese collection, the La Palma Branch the largest Japanese collection and the Irvine Branch the largest Chinese collection.
The special collections at the libraries help people learn about different cultures and allow them to read books, watch movies or listen to music in their native languages, library officials said.
“This is great for promoting” harmony among all cultures, Kennedy said.