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Connecting Communities: The Role of Public Libraries in Promoting Latina Wellness.

As a consultant, I have worked with Libraries for over six years. This year, we focused on mental health and providing civic engagement for Latinas. We have teamed up with Dane County Public Libraries in Sun Prairie and Marshall, both towns with significant Latino populations.

In my previous life, I was a social service provider or "trabajadora social" I helped and advocated for Latino families. I coordinated a women's group and helped many women connect to social services (rent, health, legal) and other services. Transportation for Latinas in these areas is a huge barrier. Many Latinas who live in these areas cannot drive because of the prejudicial limitations for immigrant workers.

Knowing this, I have made it a point to keep in touch with the community after my work there in the early 2000s.

Fast forward to last year, I was honored that Midwest Mujeres' "Ambassador Program" was chosen to consult the libraries and be a bridge for the Latinas in this area.

Public libraries are often hailed as spaces of knowledge and community engagement, and for this partnership, Sun Prairie Library and Marshall Library have emerged as catalysts in championing the wellness of Latinas for Wisconsin. We are on the road, but much work must be done as a state and as stewards of public spaces.

Public spaces and historical sites are part of my mission to help build connections to Black and Brown communities. As a community, we pay for these spaces. This is the stewardship of public spaces like libraries to make these public spaces accessible to all the people of the public. For many reasons, Latinas might not see the library as part of their community.

Latinas see the public library for their kids and books, but libraries are also spaces of innovation. We helped the women set up a series of workshops celebrating Latina Wellness.

In the picture below, you can see our program in action!

We made the front page of the local Sun Prairie newspaper for our work with local Latinas and our ambassador program. We hosted a day of the dead night and enjoyed the presentations of four local Latinas talking about their businesses.

Midwest Mujeres Ambassador program: Las Mujeres.

We used a program model that has been very successful in health care promotoras or health promoters. In this outreach initiative, we connected with Latinas who were all local to Sun Prairie or Marshall. The planning empowers women to create mini-classes or talleres focusing on health and culture. These engagement activities can help get feedback for future planning and build a connection to the library, which has many positive consequences. During the first year, the women gave vital feedback in Sun Prairie Library's resident survey.

This year, we trained Marshall Library staff and connected the Marshall Library leadership with popular Latino-led organizations that can help connect to more engagement opportunities.

Left: Marlene Dominguez of Marlene Cleaners LLC. She talked about how mental health is linked to tidying up. And how difficult it is to do when facing depression and anxiety. Gabriela Tellez from BayLin Skin Care LLC spoke about how to build a daily routine for your skin. We shared community circle time with Adri from Roots4Change, and other organizations were present to support las Mujeres and wellness for Latinas. We honored our stories and dreams. Tomy Tepepa told her beautiful poem Curandera De Wisconsin!

Summary: In the heart of the Midwest, public libraries are transforming beyond conventional roles, emerging as dynamic spaces actively contributing to the well-being of Midwest Mujeres. For these women, libraries serve as essential connectors, celebrating diversity, providing educational resources, promoting health and wellness, fostering cultural connections, and building supportive networks. I'm very proud of this project, which was done with the funding of the Beyond the Page, Madison Community Foundation, and National Endowment for the Humanities.


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