Anna Avalos | Movers & Shakers 2020–Community Builders

Nearly half of Los Angeles’s four million people are Latinx, from more than 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries. As multilingual collections manager of Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL), Anna Avalos selects Spanish-language materials for all 73 branches, as well as offering collection assessments and recommendations to branches that don’t have Spanish-speaking staff. In the nearly three years she’s been in the position, she’s quadrupled the Spanish collection. She also acquires Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Russian, and Thai content.

Sidsel Bech-Petersen

CURRENT POSITION

Multilingual Collections Manager, Los Angeles Public Library

DEGREE

MLIS, San Jose State University, 2007

FOLLOW

@amavalos81; lapl.org/en-espanol; lapl.org/libros-fest

Photo by Neale Stokes

 

En Dos Idiomas

Nearly half of Los Angeles’s four million people are Latinx, from more than 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries. As multilingual collections manager of Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL), Anna Avalos selects Spanish-language materials for all 73 branches, as well as offering collection assessments and recommendations to branches that don’t have Spanish-speaking staff. In the nearly three years she’s been in the position, she’s quadrupled the Spanish collection. She also acquires Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Russian, and Thai content.

For Avalos, the drive to provide access to materials for non-English speakers dates to a library job as a shelver in college. "Spanish-speaking patrons always approached me to ask questions," she recalls. "They were always happy to find out that I spoke Spanish and that we had a Spanish collection. I loved helping out because it reminded me of my family."

Avalos created a Spanish Language Translations Team in spring 2018. Seven bilingual librarians collaborate on translations of policies, flyers, forms, brochures, and web pages that take into account the grammar, dialects, and regional varieties of Spanish. They’ve presented their work at the state library association conference and Seguimos Creando Enlaces (which connects libraries from the U.S. and Mexico), and conducted a webinar for REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking.

These threads came together on September 28, 2019, at the first Los Angeles Libros Festival, an all-day free event held at the Central Library, celebrating Spanish and bilingual books, writers, and readers from the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, and other Latin American countries. Avalos created the festival with the help of LAPL colleagues and partnered with LA librería Bookstore, REFORMA, and the LA County Museum of Art, among others, to make it a reality. The group initially anticipated about 500 people, but more than 5,600 people attended.

The 2020 Los Angeles Libros Festival is scheduled for late September, as Avalos continues to seek out new paths to inclusivity. "I want to gain more insights on how to appeal [to], motivate, and reach Latinos, particularly monolingual and bilingual Spanish speakers who are parents and caregivers with children, and those who are interested in lifelong learning and self-improvement," she says. "I am the daughter of immigrants, and I owe a lot to the library. I feel the need to let people know that the library is here to help them." 

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