2001-2002 ALA President-Elect

Spanish in Our Libraries Interview

Esteemed Candidates:

Language barriers present important challenges to library users and service providers. Certainly the ALA could play an active and influential role in helping librarians with their efforts to better serve growing communities of Spanish speakers.

SOL, which reaches more than 200 working librarians in the US and

Canada with its newsletter and discussion list, and many more with its accompanying website, invites all three presidential aspirants to explain your perspectives on this issue and describe any plans you hope to carry out during your term in office.

Your responses will be included in the SOL e-newsletter and posted on the website. Thank you all for your consideration, and best wishes for a good campaign.


Statement of Maurice J. (Mitch) Freedman 

I am committed to services to Spanish speakers. This commitment will be a strong part of my presidency.

In recognition of my record and my platform, I am proud to inform SOL readers that I was endorsed by REFORMA. 

As ALA President: 

  • I will advocate for encouraging libraries to recruit and reward bilingual librarians by paying bonuses for that skill. I will also recommend subsidies for language instruction for librarians, library support staff, and patrons. This will be included in a kit I will develop that will provide librarians with tools to lobby for better pay for library staff at the local level. The overall issue of pay equity and better pay for library workers will be one of the most important concerns of my presidency.
  • I will use the full power of the office of the President to ensure that ALA provides Spanish and other major language translations of all ALA produced materials. Included will be materials in non-print formats, which may be easier for ESL library users to work with. Note that I sponsored a successful resolution in the ALA Council that directed ALA to prepare materials in Spanish that are comparable to the English language materials ALA created for the @your library campaign.
  • I will establish a Committee on Diversity made up of ALA affiliate group appointed members that I will consult on all major ALA issues, including important committee assignments.

As part of my job I have been committed to services to Spanish speakers: 

As the director of the Westchester Library System (WLS), I am proud of several accomplishments that were especially important and valuable to the Westchester community of Spanish speakers. Following is a list of some of WLS’s more recent initiatives: 

The latest is a six-week course in rudimentary Spanish for the library staff. It was an idea initiated by the Outreach & Adult Services Department head, Robin Osborne. The goal is to train library staff so they will have some understanding of what Spanish speakers are asking for, as well as give them the skills to be able to give simple answers in Spanish.

One of the reasons I am so deeply committed to this Spanish class for library staff was because of an incident that occurred twenty-five years ago while I was head of technical services at one of the largest public libraries in the world. At a meeting of all of the coordinators and the upper management of the library, someone reported that one of the staff had told a library user to speak in English because that is the language of the U.S. The Spanish speaker left the library, probably never to return again. 

I offered an opinion and a suggestion. I said that the librarian should either be transferred to a branch that does not have Spanish-speaking users, or, be trained in Spanish if she wished to remain at that branch. Either way, no one should be insulted because of the language they speak. My suggestion was for the library to subsidize Spanish instruction for its staff as a way of providing better service to its Spanish speaking users.

WLS also created two literacy centers established with 8 PCs each, and on-site paid instructors. The object of the centers is to help ESOLs develop language and information literacy skills.  

Lastly WLS recently published a bilingual Immigrant Resources Directory listing all of the relevant service agencies in the County. The directory was published both ways—front in Spanish; turn it over and the front is in English. 

As part of my professional outlook I am committed to Spanish speakers: 

I have always been committed to serving everyone. I believe that the public library’s greatness as a democratic institution is its commitment to serving everyone regardless of his or her language, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, physical differences, or ability to pay. My career reflects achievements and activities in the library, in the ALA, and in my personal life that embody that commitment. 

I am the social responsibilities candidate, with endorsements, in addition to REFORMA’s, from the Social Responsibilities Round Table, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table, the Feminist Task Force, and several past and present members of the executive board, including its founder, Dr. E.J. Josey, of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.  

Promoting diversity issues will be an absolute priority of my presidency.


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