The Orange County Library System (OCLS) serves the metropolitan area of Orlando, Florida. Over 1.1 million people call this part of Central Florida home. Of that population, 26.9% are of Hispanic origin. The Orange County Library System was awarded a congressionally directed grant, administered through the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2010. This grant was used over three years to help better serve the Hispanic community in the metro Orlando Florida area, more specifically at two of the branches that have a Hispanic population of approximately 44%. The Southeast and South Creek branches of the Orange County Library System were the two branches targeted to receive funding, but all materials are available to all members of the OCLS.
While the primary focus of the grant was to provide more books and media, OCLS engaged us to create awareness and educate the Hispanic community about the free resources the library offers. Based on a focus group, Hispanics perceived the library as an outdated place where you can only borrow books or use it for research purposes only. In addition there was a perception that a library required everyone to be quiet and was not a place for families to learn, explore and laugh together. In order to break this misconception, we executed a grand opening ceremony to launch the Hispanic Initiative “Soy Culto” (I am cultured). We worked closely with reporters to cover and write articles about this event/initiative. We also created and executed a public awareness campaign promoting the new services the library has to offer from free ESL classes to computer classes (including Computer Basics, the complete Microsoft Suite such us Word, PowerPoint, Excel & Access, Quickbooks, Photoshop and more taught in Spanish), as well as free access to books and media in Spanish materials and free classes to prepare for naturalization called Citizenship Inspired. OCLS was positioned as a cool, culturally diverse, entertainment and educational place for the community where you can not only learn different things in Spanish but also allows you feel welcome and close to home, and more integrated into the American society. The campaign was focused on South East and South creek branch locations.
The campaign was a great success for OCLS. Many lives have been touched and changed by helping people improve their skills. Since 2010 over 4,300 people have attended various computer class offerings. ELS classes were overbooked and with a waiting list. Over 1,500 customers have attended to an ELS classes. OCLS saw an increase in usage and rental of Spanish materials. We helped generate an average 1,100 visits per month on the “Soy Culto” web site since the campaign began.