Julia Saccamano: Runner-up 2015 Anne MacKay Scholarship Winner
By Julia Saccamano Southold High School
I have been a Page at the Southold Free Library since the month after I turned fourteen. I mainly help the children’s librarian that works there. A major part of the Southold Library is dedicated to the children. Our librarian works to give the children what they need to grow both inside and outside of the classroom. The children’s librarian does everything you’d expect a children’s librarian to do: she helps parents and their kids find books for pleasure, books for growth, and books for research, but she also does much more. She helps kids with their homework, plans programs that they will enjoy, and tries her best to expose the kids to the wonders of the library. One group, however, that has been immune to her efforts is the hispanic population.
Over the summers in order to help children continue to use their minds and grow intellectually, the children’s librarian puts together a summer program. With my help, she plans and hosts multiple programs a week and creates contests in which children who read get prizes. The whole town gets involved; the program gets an overwhelming response among children. When I started working as a Page at the library, parents were made aware of what the program had to offer through a handout that the librarian wrote and gave to the local school to distribute. The letter gave information about how to sign up, what kind of programs there were, and all the other details. There was just one problem: the letter was written in english and there was a large number of hispanic children with parents who couldn’t read them. You see, over the years the number of hispanic families living in Southold has increased.
The first summer I worked there the children’s librarian wasn’t immune to the fact that there were groups of people not receiving her message, but she didn’t know how to write in spanish, and they didn’t know how to read in english. A sort of “quick fix” was implemented. The newsletter concerning the summer program was put through google translate, which although a great program is not advanced enough to translate documents. Until I started working there, this is how the newsletter was sent out to spanish speaking families. I was told to make photocopies of both the english and the spanish newsletters to send to the school for disbursement. I was no way near bilingual (I had just three years of spanish under my belt and had a grasp on the language) but I could tell some things were off. For example: I noticed a line on the spanish newsletter that said something along the lines of “Don’t lose your child this summer!” After further comparison, I realized it was supposed to say “Don’t let your child miss out this summer!”. The document had dozens of tiny mistakes that gave an entire different meaning to what was said.
I knew I didn’t have the ability to translate everything correctly but I knew someone who could. That day there was a girl in the teen room who was bilingual. With the approval of the librarian, we sat down together and worked to fix the mistakes. It took a REALLY long time, but together we made something that could be understood. We expanded the summer children’s program membership and lessened the divide between ethnicities.
Since then I have continued to help the library expand the number of people in the community that it reaches. Last year, for example, I wrote my own mini newspaper in spanish to expose the books the library had to the young adults that speak spanish. I wrote book reviews and summaries of books that we had in both english and spanish. I wrote about popular authors and about books that would be turned into movies. I made sure that whatever I wrote about we had a copy of in both spanish and english. I want to expand the number of patrons to include all ethnicities and languages.
Over the years, the library has increased the number of books written in other languages (both for children and adults), has hosted classes for learning other languages, and has subscribed to magazines written in spanish. Additionally, library card holders can uses a program online called “Pronunciator” that can teach patrons over 80 languages. The library is expanding its horizons and decrease the exclusion of the past. The diverse public of Southold deserves a library that can meet the needs of all who are residents.