Redmond Library’s programming reflects diverse local population

As the City of Redmond becomes more diverse, the programming at the Redmond Library has come to reflect this.

From world language story times to citizenship classes, the library not only acknowledges the differences in the patrons it serves, it celebrates them.

Children’s librarian Jenn Carter said one of the library’s focuses and goals for this year is to reach out to Redmond’s diverse population. For example, she said they are planning monthly family events such as a Lunar New Year event this month and a family celebration event next month for Black History Month.

The library also holds regular events and programming throughout the month.

Carter said they have four different world-language story times. These are held in Chinese, Hindi, Russian and Spanish, twice a month each. The story times are run by independent contractors — native speakers — and geared toward kids ages 1-6.

Story times are held in the library’s public meeting rooms as this allows groups to sing, dance and be loud, Carter said.

Ruchi Gupta, who presents the Hindi story time, said she got started after taking her first child — who is now in fifth grade — to story times at the Bothell Library. She said it became a very important part of their lives, as did other kids programs at the library. Gupta said she became friends with the children’s librarian in Bothell and together they came up with the idea of offering a Hindi story time as there were library patrons with Indian backgrounds. Gupta then expanded to other libraries, including Redmond.

“I feel proud when I see kids learning a new language and I am amazed with their leaning ability of how fast they grasp things,” she said. “It’s very important for their mental and social growth.”

Gupta said through the books they read, kids get to know the different cultures and beliefs of other communities. They can also relate to how things are similar, too, she said.

“It is fascinating to know how the same thing sounds differently in different languages,” Gupta said. “By knowing more than one language, they can connect to more people.”

Adriana Alvarez, who presents the Spanish story time at the Redmond Library, had a similar story of getting involved. She began taking her daughter to the story times and they had a great time.

“As a mom and a relatively new immigrant to this country, I was amazed by these wonderful opportunities offered to families,” she said. “And what was best, is that it was free entertainment.”

Alvarez applied for a job and has been doing Spanish story time for eight years.

“It is interesting that even though the program was originally created for Hispanic families, my audience is mostly international and many of the children already speak a language other than English,” she said. “I see that their parents are highly interested in exposing their kids to a new language and in particular to Spanish.”

The Redmond Library also offers a weekly Play &Learn event in Chinese. Carter said this is an opportunity for Chinese-speaking families with children ages 2-5 to get out of the house and meet others and make friends. The programming is given in English and Mandarin.

Typically on a monthly basis during the school year, Carter said the library also works with Lake Washington School District to hold an “Explore Your Library” event. She said this is for English Language Learner families and serves as an introduction to the library as the concept of a public library is uniquely American.

Carter said it is important to let people know that the library is free and that they offer books in other languages. She said they also work to encourage families to continue to speak their home languages and maintain their home language skills.

While the library does not have specific programming for teens of diverse backgrounds, Carter said the various programs they do have are attended by teens of all backgrounds.

“It’s just the nature of Redmond,” she said about the local population.

The library also has programming for adults of different backgrounds.

Dan Shaffer, the adult services librarian, said they offer citizenship classes once a week. These classes offer help with the citizenship process — ranging from filling out forms, to studying for the citizenship test.

Shaffer said they also have Talk Time three times a week, which is an opportunity for people to get together and practice speaking English.

“Talk Times are extremely well attended,” he said, adding that library programming is free and most programs do not require any pre-registration unless it is an issue of the room size.

In addition to serving communities of different cultural backgrounds, Shaffer said they also have programs such as their Wisdom Cafes, which are geared toward senior citizens. He said these are opportunities for seniors to come together with others in their community to discuss a pre-determined topic. He added that they are planning a Chinese-language Wisdom Cafe, which should start in the spring.

Shaffer said in addition to serving their community, it is also the library’s mission to create community as well, which is the goal of the Wisdom Cafes.

The library also holds one-off events throughout the year. Recently, there has been a panel about homelessness in the community, an event looking at Islam in the news and a community discussion on transgender bathroom politics.

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