Biblioteca Criolla Relocation:
All those of Latino background whose love of the Spanish language brings them to books and cultural programs in their native language will be very happy to know that the Biblioteca Criolla of the Jersey City Free Public Library is now in operation!
Biblioteca Criolla re-opened to the public on Monday, June 21, 2010 with a Grand Re-Opening Ribbon-Cutting and a crowd of well-wishers, from frequent library users, including parents with children in strollers and seniors, to P.S. No. 37, whose teacher, Michele Marinelli, brought eight children from the 6th and 7th grades.
There were special guests who attended, including the Honorable Eliu Rivera, executive director of P.A.C.O. and Hudson County Freeholder, District 4. Freeholder Rivera took to the microphone, with praises for the years of keeping the Biblioteca Criolla a valuable library service in the community, whether as a branch or a department. Deputy Mayor Kabili Tayari represented Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, and spoke of the value of reading and the library’s role. Mr. Tayari is also head of the Jersey City N.A.A.C.P.
Also attending were Justo de Jesus, who had been department head of Biblioteca Criolla in the early 1970s; Ray Benitez, president of Jersey City Borinquen Lions; Robert Rosado, vice president of Premio Arte; Romanita Roman of the Visiting Homemaker Service of Hudson County; and The featured Guest Speaker Luis Alvarado, founding member and current president of the Ecuadorian Civic Committee of New Jersey (2008-2011), spoke of his love of libraries, stemming from the public library near his boyhood home in Union City, and how lifelong learning changes the course of one’s life. Criolla Unit Head Patricia Vega, who just earned her Masters in Library & Information Science at Pratt Institute in New York City, conducted a tour of the various service areas comprising the newly created department. The telephone number of Biblioteca Criolla remains the same: (201) 547-4541. Ms. Vega can also be reached by e-mail:
“All services have been restored, and nothing has been left out of the mix,” said Assistant Library Director Sonia Araujo, who oversees the former branch that is now a department at the Main Library, residing on the 4th Floor.
The severe budgetary constraints to the library system have precipitated this move, changing from a storefront Neighborhood branch to a Unit within the Main Library.
“We are so pleased to re-open Biblioteca Criolla to the many Spanish nationalities that comprise the greater Latino community,” said Patricia Vega, manager of the Biblioteca Criolla. “We care about how to serve our Spanish library users, and will be responsive to the community, as best we can. Please consider this your intellectual home. ¡Mi casa es su casa!”
The Biblioteca Criolla will concentrate on providing Spanish services only, with its Children’s Story Hour being exclusively done in Spanish. Books will mostly be in Spanish, however, the collection will be inclusive of some known books in English that pertain to Spanish authors.
The Grand Re-Opening’s Guest Speaker, Luis Alvarado, is a marketing management professional in the international travel, hospitality and domestic tourism industries, who spoke on the importance of the role of a library today. Mr. Alvarado grew up in Union City, a block away from a public library, which helped shape his love of libraries. His career path started at The Chart House in Weehawken, and progressed to Spirit Cruises, The Milford Plaza, and Millennium Hotels & Resorts, where he is currently employed. Luis Alvarado is a highly effective, energetic, and results-oriented marketing manager with over 15 years’ sales experience and leadership. An excellent communicator, Mr. Alvarado is fully knowledgeable about the cultures of Latin America and Spain, and in their geography. He is fluent in written and spoken Spanish, French, and has studied Portuguese for one year, with interests in traveling, cultures, cooking and has volunteered for the March of Dimes.
Helena Ruman Architects designed the interior space of what had been the art gallery at the Main Library with a quiet children’s reading area, six computer banks, tables in an open space that can be removed for larger programs and exhibits, an adult reading area, and a stacks area. All services to seniors, adults and children continue, as with the Biblioteca Criolla being a stop on the Jersey City Artists Studio Tour each October.
Since 1972, the Biblioteca Criolla in the Jersey City library system has been the only branch library in New Jersey dedicated exclusively to Spanish works, whether print or recorded, and in presenting Latino culture from all Spanish nationalities. In leaving the storefront branch, the Biblioteca Criolla Unit on the 4th Floor will not be wheelchair accessible; however there is an elevator at the Main Library, which currently is current major renovation for full ADA compliance, including the renovation of the 1st Floor restrooms and creation of an elevator that would accommodate a wheelchair.
In the early 1970s, former Assistant Library Director Mrs. Mary Duffy observed that Spanish patrons had not made full use of the Main Library, for reasons of language difficulties and of intimidation of the multi-floored, imposing structure itself. Mrs. Duffy developed a grant proposal that was submitted to the Office of Services to the Disadvantaged at the New Jersey State Library. With her idea granted, a pilot project was born.
The new branch library was called Biblioteca Criolla. Its name implies the Spanish element in its collection and its target audience. The branch had a Spanish-speaking staff and a welcoming atmosphere, which allowed for a better understanding of library services. Materials were offered in Spanish with a collection of 500 novellas, and a small record and magazine collection. The Biblioteca Criolla of the Jersey City Free Public Library opened its doors at 120 Newark Avenue in May of 1972.
The Biblioteca Criolla’s original intent was to provide the mostly Puerto Rican community with a small lending service. The rapid growth of the community and the usage of the branch soon led to the creation of other services. The library boasts one of the largest vertical file collections on Hispanics in the City, with the lending collection soon became too small for the demands of the community. A reference collection was soon installed. The demand for materials and other information led for the need for a larger space. The Biblioteca Criolla offered more to the various Spanish cultures – Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Chile and other Central and South American locales – than mere library services. Biblioteca Criolla established one of the first job centers, list of different city agencies, college admission fairs, never before offered to the Spanish community. Biblioteca Criolla has always been a place where people native in the Spanish language congregated, where they felt comfortable. Advocacy on behalf of social needs and cultural presentations also took place at Criolla.
The Biblioteca Criolla occupied the second floor on 194 Newark Avenue for several years. The library soon needed additional space for its growing collection, the second floor space made it difficult for patrons to access its services. Ms. Sonia Araujo, one of its original staff members, petitioned the community’s support for a new storefront location. Answering the call were community leaders Eliu Rivera, Julio Colon, who then lobbied former Mayor Bret Schundler for his support. Together, “La Criolla,” as the branch library was affectionately called in the community, was relocated to its new present street level location on 280 First Street.
On April 19, 1997, the grand opening block party ushered in a new era for the Spanish-language branch library, formally identifying its focus in unifying the many Spanish communities and being presented as its new name – the Perfecto Oyola Biblioteca Criolla Y Centro Cultural – in honoring a local community activist.
Born in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico, Perfecto Oyola joined the U.S. military in 1948, where he was stationed in Puerto Rico, Panama and Germany, then emigrated to the United States in 1956. Jersey City became his second home until 1987, when he returned to Puerto Rico.
Of his many efforts that benefited local Spanish communities, Perfecto Oyola is best remembered for being the founder of the Jersey City Hispanic Merchants, founder and organizer of Puertorriqueños Asociados for Community Organization (P.A.C.O.), and as president of the Puerto Rican Lutheran Housing Corporation, which was responsible for the 242 housing units at the Villa Borinquen complex on Grove Street and Paulus Hook Towers on 100 Montgomery St.
After nearly 40 years, since 1972, of servicing the Hispanic community, the Biblioteca Criolla succumbed to the severe budgetary cuts the library system has been experiencing, and packed up its library materials at the First Street storefront. The Biblioteca Criolla re-emerged from its Neighborhood branch status as a Unit on the 4th floor of the Main Library on June 21, 2010. The Biblioteca Criolla concentrates on providing Spanish services only, with its Children’s Story Hour being exclusively done in Spanish. Books are mostly in Spanish, however, the collection is inclusive of some known books in English that pertain to Spanish authors.
Irrespective of now being a department at the Main Library, the Biblioteca Criolla continues to generate enthusiasm in the community by offering services relevant to its patrons. The branch continues to employ staff members fluent in both Spanish and English in order to relate and better understand the needs of the every growing Hispanic community.
The following services are offered free to Jersey City residents at the Biblioteca Criolla:
- Library orientations to groups
- Exhibit area for local artists and students
- Public access computers connected to the Internet and Research Databases
- Pre-school story hour sessions (in Spanish only)
- Cultural Programs for children, adults and young adults
- Lectures, recitals and exhibits for the entire community
- Artist gallery