Central Library's Latino Collection on the sixth floor. Courtesy photo.
Central Library's Latino Collection on the sixth floor. Credit: Courtesy / San Antonio Public Library

The San Antonio Central Library’s extensive Latino Collection is one step closer to its relocation from the 6th floor to a more prominent space on the library’s first floor.

City Council Thursday morning unanimously approved a more than $270,000 contract with Alpha Building Corporation to renovate the 6,000 sq. ft. space on the library’s main floor where the collection will be housed. That area was formerly used as the teen area, which is now located on the third floor.

Officials say that relocating the library’s Latino Collection, which has more than 10,000 printed items in English and Spanish, is a way to expose people of all ages to Latino history and honor the great impact that Latino cultures have had on San Antonio’s development.

“A respect for San Antonio’s cultural heritage and the location of this collection on the first floor are the messages behind the move of the Latino Collection,” said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), a strong proponent of the project. “All citizens of San Antonio want to feel like they belong. Investment in cultural capital is the best investment you could make.”

Alpha Building Corporation’s scope of work will include adding new walls, floor finishes, minor ceiling revisions, and painting the space to transform it into a vibrant learning area where literary workshops, lectures, author readings, and research can take place. The space also will feature three study rooms, a small gallery, and a reading area.

Construction will likely begin in mid-March, and officials anticipate the project to be completed in June 2017, Lacey Fischer, director of development for Library Foundation, told the Rivard Report.

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“This project will not only provide a new home for the Latino Collection, but it will provide special spaces that will allow the collection to be more meaningful and impactful through programming,” said Ramiro Salazar, Public Library director.

The project is funded entirely by private funds raised by the San Antonio Public Library Foundation‘s Latino Leadership for the Library Committee (L3) and the San Antonio Public Library.

Of the $270,739.17 in donation funding, $236,853.16 is from the San Antonio Public Library Foundation; $16,386.01 is from the Friends of the Library to the Latino Collection Project; and $17,500 is from the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation, which was created in 2000 to honor the father of iconic Chicana writer Sandra Cisneros, who lived in San Antonio for more than 20 years.

The Latino Collection was created in 1996 “after a group of concerned citizens petitioned the library board of trustees for the creation of a collection that would speak to the San Antonio Hispanic and Latino community,” Salazar said.

“It was envisioned to be a cultural and educational resource which would chronicle and celebrate the literature, heritage, and contemporary life of Latinos in the United States.”

Today, the collection includes fiction and non-fiction books in English and Spanish that focus on Mexican-American culture, but Salazar said the library plans to expand the collection to include other Latino cultures.

The center will be a destination and it’s the library’s hope to really promote it as another cultural tourism element for people visiting the city and for people who live in San Antonio,” Fischer said. The community can still be involved 

Prominent, local Latino writers, artists, and leaders including former Texas and San Antonio Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla, Tomas Ybarra y Frausto, author John Phillip Santos, playwright Gregg Barrios, artist Jesse Treviño, Sheila Black, executive artistic director of Gemini Ink, and Graciela Sanchez, director of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, have backed the relocation project from the beginning.

They showed their support for the Latino Collection and its move at an event at the Central Library in 2015.

“Words have power. Stories have power. Your voices and stories also have power,” Tafolla said at the event. “I feel the power of this collection as a resource center is limitless.”

For more information about the Latino Collection and opportunities to support fundraising activities, contact the Library Foundation at (210) 225-4728.

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Camille Garcia

Camille Garcia is a journalist born and raised in San Antonio. She formerly worked at the San Antonio Report as assistant editor and reporter. Her email is camillenicgarcia@gmail.com