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By the year 2000, one out of every four American public schoolchildren will come from a minority ethnic group. This multicultural student body, reflecting the country's pluralistic society, dictates immediate attention in terms of available resources.
As stated in Information Power (American Association of School Librarians & Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 1988), one of the missions and challenges of today's school library media programs is to: "Provide resources and learning activities that represent a diversity of experiences, opinions, social and cultural perspectives, supporting the concept that intellectual freedom and access to information are prerequisite to effective and responsible citizenship in a democracy" (p. 2). School library media centers, in order to respond to these demographic changes, must re-examine their standards and decisions regarding information access in order to fulfill the needs of the current and future user population.
This article reports the findings of a survey of school library media centers with large enrollments of Hispanic children in eight large urban centers. The principal goal was to develop an understanding of the availability of Spanish language literature in schools with large populations of Spanish-dominant students.
A questionnaire was developed and evaluated by a panel for content validity, reliability, wording, and time needed to complete the form. This four-person panel consisted of one university professor of children's literature, one state certified librarian with a Ph.D. in reading, one librarian with an M.L.S., and one graduate research assistant finishing an M.L.S. degree. Both librarians were highly experienced in working with bilingual students. Following the panelists' review and evaluation of the first draft, recommendations were incorporated, including the unanimous decision to reduce significantly the number of questions on the survey. Three hundred and five survey questionnaires were mailed to public schools in San Diego, California; Phoenix, Arizona; Tucson, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; El Paso, Texas; Houston, Texas; Miami, Florida; and Denver, Colorado. These cities were selected because of the large populations of Hispanic families.
The schools, serving students from kindergarten through eighth grade, were identified as having a large number of Hispanic children enrolled. The surveys were addressed to the school library media specialist, librarian, or person in charge of the library. The cover letter enclosed with the survey assured respondents' anonymity unless they volunteered to be interviewed by phone or wished to be quoted in the article (see Appendix A for a copy of the survey).
Sixty-two schools completed questionnaires, which represents about 20 percent of the questionnaires distributed. Usable questionnaires were received from all eight areas canvassed. School library media specialists or librarians were the only respondents. No follow-up was made.
The instrument used to conduct this study consisted of twenty-nine questions and a final note. Four questions requested demographic data concerning the respondent; five questions addressed the school's demographics; one question requested information regarding the number of personnel in the library and their Spanish language fluency; one question asked respondents to rate their knowledge of the subgroups that comprise the Hispanic ethnic group; five questions addressed the media centers' collections of Spanish and English materials and budget allocations for each; and six questions inquired as to the review, selection, and purchase of Spanish materials and cooperation with other institutions. In two questions, respondents were asked to indicate whether or not their media centers provided each of twenty selected activities and services, and in which language(s) they were performed. One question asked participants to list the most successful books used with Hispanic children. Finally, three open-ended questions, requiring narrative responses, were designed to reveal school library media specialists' viewpoints regarding specific positive and negative trends in serving Spanish-dominant children. The last narrative question asked respondents to describe their "greatest needs and concerns regarding Hispanic children's literature." A final note asked respondents to list "the exciting and unique activities being held in their libraries."
Data analysis of the multiple-choice questions was made by converting the responses into frequencies and percentages. Analysis of the open-ended questions was done by clustering responses that were similar and converting them into frequencies.
A second analysis was made to ensure that respondents did not represent a single biased group. Interestingly, the returned surveys ranged from very limited responses to highly detailed ones and spanned from enthusiasm for linguistic and cultural diversity to rejection of special services for any given group of students.
The findings of the survey are reported in the following major categories: (1) The demographics and linguistic profile of the students and the community in this study; (2) the school library media specialists and their personnel; (3) the media center's holdings and budgetary allocations; (4) review, selection, and acquisition of Spanish materials; (5) the book selection process; (6) the activities and events held in or sponsored by the library; (7) the positive trends in Hispanic children's literature; (8) the negative trends, concerns, and needs regarding access to Spanish children's literature by Hispanic children; (9) a list of successful media center activities; and (10) the author's recommendations to school administrators and library media specialists as suggested by the survey results.
THE SCHOOLS, THE STUDENT BODY, THEIR LANGUAGE, AND THE COMMUNITY
The breakdown of Hispanic students in the sixty-two schools surveyed is as follows: Eight schools had less than a 30 percent Hispanic student body; fourteen schools had a 31 to 60 percent Hispanic student population; sixteen schools had a 61 to 80 percent Hispanic enrollment; twenty-one schools had an 81 to 100 percent Hispanic population; and three schools did not respond to this question. The communities in which the schoolchildren lived, in terms of their Hispanic populations, are as follows: five schools were located in communities that had less than a 30 percent Hispanic population; twelve schools were found in communities with 31 to 50 percent Hispanics; thirteen schools were in Hispanic communities of 51 to 70 percent; sixteen had a Hispanic population of 71 to 90 percent; and ten schools were in predominantly Hispanic communities that ranged from 91 to 100 percent Hispanics. Six schools did …