Elizabeth Martin Stearns & Carmen Patlan | Movers & Shakers 2014 — Innovators

Post date: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 4:23de la tarde

Posted in Library Journal March 11, 2014

Library Ambassadors

Elizabeth Stearns (l.) began looking for someone to help the Waukegan Public Library, IL, connect with the local Latino community out of necessity. She had worked at the library through two censuses and saw that by 2010 Latinos made up more than half of the city’s population. “We would not stay relevant if we did not reach this community,” says Stearns.

She knew it would be a challenge. Many people did not speak English well or at all. Rates of poverty and illiteracy were high.

Stearns says she tried a few public relations campaigns but soon realized she needed someone from within the Latino community to do outreach. In 2011, she found Carmen Patlan, who was then the Human Concerns Director at a majority-Latino Catholic church with more than 5,000 members.

Patlan had no library experience but had been a longtime advocate for a community that she says “often feels voiceless.” Stearns and Patlan discovered that, together, they could accomplish a lot.

“Anyone who has seen them work together knows that is how they work best,” says Peggy Barber, a library consultant and former long-standing communications director at the American Library Association, who nominated the duo.

Patlan quickly generated a “tsunami of use” by Latinos, says Barber. Far from just creating a few ESL classes, Patlan helped expand library services to include the “Social Worker Is In” one-on-one counseling, computer literacy classes, health programming, and Leamos, a self-taught Spanish literacy program.

Patlan understood that her job was not just to create programming; she also had to change the attitudes of Latino immigrants toward the library.

“To immigrants, unless you came from a wealthy family with access to schooling, libraries are not viewed as accessible or relevant to their needs,” says Patlan. “They think of libraries as librerías, or bookstores, which they can’t afford.”

Much of the library’s success in reaching Latinos has come from the Promotora/Ambassador volunteer program, which empowers individuals with strong ties to their communities to help raise awareness around the issues that affect them. “Social media and all the technology tools will never replace actually engaging with your constituents on an ongoing basis,” says Stearns.

Last year, Stearns and Patlan won the library the prestigious National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

Now, the two women want to create a training institute to help libraries across the country replicate their programs.

“We discovered that it is not enough to know your customer is Latino, or whether they speak English and have a library card,” Patlan says. “You need to know how they feel about their children’s education, what their job and family aspirations are, and what worries them daily.”

Month-Long Elementary Art Show at WPL Begins March 1

Post date: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 10:37de la mañana

Students from all 15 of Waukegan’s elementary schools will once again have their artwork on display at the Waukegan Public Library, as part of Art in the Schools Month in March.

More than 300 of the best work from students in kindergarten through grade 5 will be hung and displayed throughout the library all month long.

The Waukegan Public Library Elementary Art Show kicks off on Saturday, March 1. A special reception and awards ceremony is planned on Thursday, March 13. A gallery viewing on that day will begin at 3:45 p.m., with an awards ceremony following at 4:30 p.m.

“We are very grateful to the Waukegan Public Library for once again showcasing our students’ artwork. Arts teachers and students worked very hard on putting this showcase together, and we look forward to showing off our students’ talents to the community,” said Ms. Sheila Crotty-Kagan, Enrichment Coordinator for Waukegan Public Schools.

Members from the community are encouraged to stop by the library during the month of March to view the fantastic student artwork.

Email Contact: nalajakis [at] wps60 [dot] org

Join a bilingual family book club at Waukegan Public Library

Post date: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 11:14de la mañana

Beginning on March 2, the Waukegan Public Library is offering a Día Family Book Clubfor bilingual children in grades 1-3 and their families. The book club is made possible by a mini-grant from the Association for Library Service to Children’s (ALSC) Everyone Reads @ your library program grant, generously funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The Waukegan Public Library was one of fifteen libraries to be awarded the mini-grant.

The Club will use bilingual books to provide an opportunity for families to read and interact together. Each week, families will read and discuss a book, complete an activity, and enjoy a snack. Families will receive a new book every week to take home.

The first meeting will feature the bilingual book Playing Lotería by René Colato Laínez, illustrated by Jill Arena. After reading and discussing the book together, the group will play a game of lotería. Families will leave with their own copy of the book to keep, and an activity to try at home: creating a lotería card representing a person, place, or object of significance to their family.

The DíaBook Club is a new addition to the Waukegan Public Library’s annual celebration of El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day). El Díais a multicultural celebration that ties children and their families to books and diversity.  The celebration, which culminates on April 30 every year, emphasizes the importance of advocating literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds. This year, the library will present its El Díafree family festival on May 4.

Día is an enhancement of Children’s Day, which began in 1925. Children’s Day was designated as a day to bring attention to the importance and well-being of children. In 1996, nationally acclaimed children’s book author Pat Mora proposed linking the celebration of childhood and children with literacy to found El día de los niños/El día de los libros.  

The Club meets for six weeks on Sundays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in March, April, and May. The activities will all be conducted in Spanish and English. Registration is required; please call 847-623-2041, ext. 273 to register. For more information on the Waukegan Public Library’s Día events please call Rena Morrow at 847-623-2041, ext. 231, or visit

About ALSC

ALSC, a division of the ALA, is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children. With a network of more than 4,000 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty, ALSC is committed to creating a better future for children through libraries. To learn more about ALSC visit

About Dollar General Corporation
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