August 31, 2006
[Peter Brimelow writes: One of the great things about the success of Pat Buchanan's new immigration book, State of Emergency, is that, through the magic of Amazon, it is hauling along in its wake several other fine immigration books, notably Congressman Tom Tancredo's In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America's Border and Security. I am struggling to review Tancredo's book, if I ever get free of fundraising, but what strikes me about it provisionally is the remarkable number of new immigration war stories it provides—for example, this case study of Reconquista in Denver Public Library, adapted with permission. Quite clearly, the government bureaucracy in Denver has simply decided to elect a new, Spanish-speaking, people. Equally clearly, what is happening here—including the workforce displacement of unilingual English-speaking Americans—is treason.]
In 2005, under the direction of City Librarian Rick Ashton, the Denver Public Library developed a radical plan to convert several of its branches into bilingual libraries with large Spanish-language holdings. Spanish was to be a required language for all newly hired staff, and new acquisitions in those branches were to be heavily weighted to Spanish-language materials. These changes were aimed at serving what the library management calls Denver's "new arrivals."
The conversion plan was supposedly based solely on "demographic changes" in Denver, but there were also meetings with the Mexican consul and Latino activist groups.
A naive observer might assume that a "bilingual library" is one designed to help Spanish-speaking immigrants become bilingual—that is, to learn English. Instead, these changes were and are simply an effort to attract the preferred customers to the Denver libraries: Spanish-only speakers.
Ashton and the other library bureaucrats consistently justified the movement to bilingual libraries as a response to "changing demographics." Their proof: a September 2001 study commissioned by the library, Demographics of Immigration in Metro Denver and Colorado, 2001: Implications for Public Library Services. [PDF] The study concluded with this assertion: "The library has a civic responsibility to serve all its constituents and to reach out to everyone in the community, especially the newest arrivals and those who speak languages other than English. We must make every effort to attract the newcomers … and make them regular customers." [emphasis added]
None of the demographic data summarized in the report explained why the "new arrivals" needed to be served in Spanish, why they were likely to become library patrons, or why the library should prefer them as customers when it meant reducing services to other library customers.
The significant piece of information found in the report that was virtually ignored: "A recent nationwide study of home language use by Hispanic students found that 57% speak mostly English at home, 25% speak mostly Spanish, and 17% speak both languages equally."
If 74 % (total) of Hispanic students speak English at home, where is the imperative to expand Spanish-only holdings?
The item cited most often was that "over 20% of Denver families now speak Spanish at home."
But three-quarters of those families also speak English at home! The important distinction here is that library management decided to focus its plan, not on its Hispanic customers, but on Denver's new arrivals—namely, the illegal aliens who do not want to learn English.
So, how important was it for the Denver Public Library to serve illegal Hispanics who do not want to learn English? Important enough to result in a commensurate decrease in services to other residents.
It all comes down to the irrational ideological commitment of the library management to bilingualism.
Ashton [send him mail] and several other library employees are members of Reforma, a national organization of professional librarians who have adopted an activist bilingual agenda. Their program is described on the group's Web site (www.reforma.org).
"REFORMA has actively sought to promote the development of library collections to include Spanish-language and Latino oriented materials; the recruitment of more bilingual and bicultural library professionals and support staff; the development of library services and programs that meet the needs of the Latino community; the establishment of a national information and support network among individuals who share our goals; the education of the U.S. Latino population in regards to the availability and types of library services; and lobbying efforts to preserve existing library resource centers serving the interests of Latinos."
After Ashton's and his colleagues' association with Reforma were discussed on a Denver radio talk show, the Reforma website suddenly hid its membership list. But the Denver Public Library is still listed as an institutional member.
Several Hispanic organizations in Denver actively supported and lobbied for the move. The weekly Spanish-language newspaper La Voz Nueva regularly featured front-page stories promoting the library's expansion of Spanish-language services. An August 24, 2005, front-page story announced, "MOP [MOP is the Metropolitan Organization for the People.] Wants Library Help for Latino Families." According to the newspaper, "MOP released … a portion of a larger research produced by the University of Denver about the need of library services for monolingual Spanish-speaking families."
That is "monolingual Spanish-speaking families" – not all Hispanic families or even all low-income Hispanic families. They demand bilingualism in government institutions like schools and libraries, but see nothing wrong with Spanish-speakers remaining monolingual.
With the vocal support of many of the city's Hispanic organizations and the nodding acceptance of the city's political leadership, the conversion of many branch libraries to "Language and Learning Centers" , with large Spanish-language holdings replacing English-language materials, continued.
Shortly after announcing his retirement, in November 2005, Ashton addressed the City Club of Denver:
"During the past year, we have been testing some new ideas for service models.... Families with kids, single adults, English language learners all have differing needs and come to us for different things in different ways."
This single reference to the language changes is strangely vague, given the public controversy his plan sparked. But the striking thing is this: Ashton characterized the large population of "new arrivals," who gave impetus to the library transformation, not as monolingual, but as "English learners," tacitly admitting that his plan could not survive close scrutiny.
Ashton has never explained to anyone how his plan will help "new arrivals" become more successful "English language learners." Ashton wanted to convince Denver's business leaders that he was helping bring Spanish-speaking immigrants into the mainstream through English education. That Ashton's plan will remove incentives to learn English was never discussed at a single library commission or city council meeting.
He did, however, complain about how "opportunistic politicians and media figures" attack the library "for our exploration of the library service needs of Spanish-speaking Denver residents." Adding, "Amidst the hubbub was buried the not-so-subtle, exclusive idea that the freedoms and privileges enjoy in this great city should somehow be withheld from many immigrants…who have come most recently [to our city]."
In Ashton's view, anyone who believed as I do, that Hispanics and all Denver residents are better served by resisting bilingualism, was simply against immigrants and against freedom. Ashton never acknowledged that there are honest, principled reasons for opposing bilingualism. Speaking English is a skill all immigrants need in order to advance economically in our country and to become full participants in civil life. Poor language skills are a consistent correlation to school dropout rates.
Does the library management feel any responsibility to assist the public schools in fighting illiteracy and scandalously high dropout rates? How can it claim to be a part of such an effort while converting branches in Hispanic neighborhoods to institutions where English need not be spoken?
Perhaps the public officials who continually pander to the bilingual lobby in search of Hispanic votes and ethnic-based awards are the true "opportunistic politicians."
A key long-range goal of the Denver library system's plan is to get a new library district and a mill levy approved by voters in order to create a source of funds separate from the city's general fund. This would give the city librarian more freedom from city council oversight.
Ashton and his team had a plan for three new branch libraries to be funded by the mill levy—if they could have gotten the levy and approved by the voters. Two of the new branches were slated for areas with rapid population growth, but the third was the creation of a predominantly Spanish-language West Denver branch (the "Latino Legacy Project").
Library management hoped to generate a huge Hispanic vote in support of this part of the project. If the Legacy Project became a focal point for cultural separatism as the heart of an all-Spanish branch library, it would have been a divisive force and a symbol of institutional collapse.
In his City Club speech, Ashton described the process of "public outreach" his advisory committee utilized through focus groups and community conversations. He said that the process was listening to "what people actually tell us they need."
But the records show something different. Of the meetings that were planned, some were cancelled, some had zero attendance (including the one conducted in Spanish) and none showed anything more than a mixed public response to the plan
But ignoring public opposition, the library system proceeded in the following ways:
(Large quantities of books and materials in English were thrown out to make room for Spanish-language books and materials. While it remains official library policy that all discarded books are first offered to schools and nonprofit organizations or saved for the library's biannual book sales, this is not how things are actually being done. After the Denver weekly Westword caught the library ditching books into dumpsters in 2003, methods were changed. Many books are now stored in locked "trash" boxes, picked up surreptitiously to be disposed of after hours.)
In July, 2005, Denver radio talk-show host Peter Boyles revealed that the libraries were spending thousands of dollars annually to purchase comic-books that graphically portray sex and violence against women that were easily accessible to children.
The library first denied the charge, and then tried to minimize the extent of the holdings. An investigatory library commission determined that ten of the fourteen fotonovela series were unsuitable, and recommended their removal. The branch library staff had complained for years about the materials and were ignored. More than 6,000 booklets were purchased with tax- payer funds over thirteen years.
Major sections of branch libraries were converted to "reflect the language makeup of the local community"—but only in Spanish-speaking communities. You don't need to speak Spanish to serve a Vietnamese patron.
As a result of Ashton's autocratic management style, many library employees left Denver for suburban libraries where bilingualism is not yet an issue, where traditional library services are still given top priority, and where volunteers are still welcomed and appreciated. There are no Mexican fotonovelas in the libraries of Aurora, Golden, Lakewood, or Littleton.
So, the library management skews statistics, wastes taxpayer funds on controversial books, literally throws out perfectly good non-Spanish-language holdings (English or otherwise), and offers extra services to illegals that aren't available to legal Americans— all to initiate a fanatical ideology of Spanish monoligualism.
And yet no one, Democrat or Republican, has had the courage to challenge it. The city council has been silent. Citizens ought to be alarmed, but instead they have been lulled to sleep by sophomoric euphemisms about "new arrivals" and "language-learners". Denver's two daily newspapers have supported the conversion process, first by ridiculing my criticism as "alarmist" and then by covering the story superficially. [Contact the Denver Post; contact Rocky Mountain News.]
The city's watchdogs have not barked while this vital educational and cultural institution has been morphed into a "bilingual" institution serving a political agenda and balkanizing a community.
Such is the power of political correctness among Denver's political, civic, and media elites.
[VDARE.COM note: The Denver Public Library website provides no obvious way to contact its new City Librarian, Shirley Amore, or the President of the Library Commission, K.C. Veio, reportedly a partner in the Denver law firm of Brownstein Hyatt & Farber. But the library's Public Relations Manager, M. Celeste Johnson, can be emailed here.]