Books from abroad – The Daily Planet

Every year librarians, publishers and booksellers gather during the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico — the largest Spanish language book fair in the world — to peruse through the latest literature being produced in Latin America and Spain. 

This past November, one of Wilkinson Public Library’s own — reference librarian Gloria Chavira — won a grant from the American Library Association and the International Book Fair that covered 90 percent of her costs to attend the fair in Mexico. She was able to meet with some of the best publishers in the business and select new books for the children’s and adult Spanish collections at the library. 

With 100-plus book purchases, new arrivals are coming in weekly from the vendor that ships the books which Chavira selected during the fair. 

For the children’s collection, Chavira mainly focused on finding story-time themed books, resources for beginner Spanish readers and books that speak to different cultures, including Mexican and Guatemalan centric materials.

“I wanted to find those culturally specific books that fulfill those needs and make people who are from Mexico or Guatemala feel like they can connect to those books,” she said. 

For the adult section, Chavira said she looked at circulation statistics to determine what books were popular over the past year and focused on expanding the collections in those themes, including fiction, cook books, self help, biographies and spiritual literature.

With more than 2,000 publishers showcasing the newest in Spanish literature at the fair, Chavira said the event was a kind of “book heaven,” and one of the best ways to make educated selections for the Spanish collection. The alternative is buying online, but with only a book cover and short synopsis available, Chavira said “buying online is like buying blindly.”

“At the fair you make better decisions,” she added. 

Sarah Landeryou, library executive director, said that while there are many resources staff can look at when expanding the English collections at the library; the Spanish section is a little trickier. 

“The Spanish market is kind of unique and I think it lends itself to the book fair model,” she said. “(For Spanish publications) you don’t get the magazines and the New York Times reviews … it is really important to go to the book fairs and talk to the publishers, see the materials and bring back the catalogs because you don’t have access to that information otherwise.” 

Landeryou said the reason for supplementing the Spanish section is simple — to cater to the needs of the community. 

“Our Spanish-speaking community is a large part of our whole region, and our community, in general, of who we serve at the library,” she said. “It’s just making sure that everybody has resources in the language that they speak.”

And for those non-native Spanish speakers, Chavira said the new materials are a useful tool. 

“If you took Spanish in high school or college and you traveled or you learned the language and you want to challenge yourself by reading a book in Spanish, watching a movie or listening to Spanish music, the library has that for you,” she said. 

While Chavira was in Mexico she also visited a music and DVD store, purchasing items that could expand the multimedia offerings. 


Chavira and Jill Wilson, library public services coordinator, host many Spanish-oriented activities for library patrons, including a beginner Spanish class the first Thursday of the month at the library; Spanish happy hour the third Thursday of the month at Esperanza’s at 5 p.m.; and bilingual family night the last Thursday of the month at 5 p.m. in the library. 


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