Comunidad para nuestros nios?: Exploring the Impact of LIS Service Learning on Library Services to Latino Youth in the Carolinas



            Latinos are the fastest growing, youngest, and largest ethnic minority in the United States.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, South Carolina’s Latino population increased over 360 percent between 1990 and 2004 (from roughly 30,000 to almost 140,000). However, based on immigration rates, school enrollment data and birth rates, researchers at the University of South Carolina’s Consortium for Latino Immigration Studies estimate South Carolina’s Latino population to be between 400,000 and 500,000. Similarly, the Pew Hispanic Center reports that the Latino school-age population (ages 5 to 17) in the new settlement areas of the South, among which include South Carolina, grew by 322% between 1990 and 2000. During this same period, the Latino preschool age population (ages birth to 4) in the new settlement areas increased by 382 percent between 1990 and 2000. As a result of this influx, an increasing percentage of young library patrons in South Carolina are of Latino origin. Yet, little information is available on the current level of services available to Latino youth in public libraries throughout the state.


            Through a new course offering entitled Literacy Materials and Services for Latino Youth, the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) has attempted to facilitate understanding of Latino services in children’s departments throughout South Carolina’s public libraries and to equip current (and future) librarians with the essential skills to begin planning services for Latino youth. A component of the graduate course involves community engagement between SLIS students and children’s librarians throughout the Carolinas.        


            This paper outlines the current service learning component of the new course, highlighting examples of the collaborative engagement between students and children’s librarians to create a shared knowledge and socialization network among information professionals throughout the Carolinas interested in serving Latino youth. The piece also describes another service learning opportunity in which students in the Spring 2008 section of the course will share their knowledge of library services and the literacy needs of Latino youth with educators, teachers, and librarians from across the nation. In addition, the paper details how the initial service learning component of the course led to the subsequent collaboration between the course instructor and the South Carolina State Library in a new Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation initiative – SPLASH! Launching Successful Library Services for South Carolina's Spanish Speakers – which provides an overview of the current services and programs for Spanish-speakers and Latinos in all of the state’s public libraries.  


            The paper further reports preliminary findings from follow-up surveys and interviews with former students in the first section of the course. Initial results of the study indicate a huge disparity in the level library services to Latino youth and an urgent need for additional training on serving this diverse population. Participants in the new SLIS course acknowledged many practical implications of the project and course content but desire additional assistance in learning Spanish and developing community partnerships with local Latino agencies.


Short Abstract

This paper outlines the service learning component of a Latino Youth LIS course, highlighting examples of the collaborative engagement between participants to create a shared knowledge of library services to Latino youth throughout the Carolinas.




Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Assistant Professor

School of Library and Information Science

University of South Carolina

113 Davis College

Columbia, SC 29208

Phone: 803-777-0090

Email: [email protected]