Library Service to Day Laborers: Biblio/webliography

This list does not aim to describe or prescribe methods of library outreach to jornaleros; we know of only one such published resource. The intent is to point toward information that will assist librarians in crafting services for these workers. Your input is invited:           
Most recent update: May 14, 2007

Background on day laborers:
"Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles." Garr, Robin. Online access:
This is a good profile of one of the most effective civil-rights groups in the nation, CHIRLA, which combines advocacy with solid educational principles. The page supplies contact information and a sketch of how CHIRLA's Day Labor Project and its organized day labor centers function. The page is part of a much larger site devoted to hundreds of community-based organizations; a librarian in almost any part of the country could use this to find out about nearby organizations or about programs that might be applicable to local needs.
"The Demographics of Day Labor: A Survey of 500 Los Angeles Area Day Laborers." Day Labor Research Institute. Online access: Lynn Svensson, formerly of UCLA and now a consultant to municipalities seeking help with their day laborer sites, here provides data that supplements Valenzuela’s (see below), potentially helping librarians to better understand who jornaleros are. Among her findings is that fewer than 13% of Los Angeles day laborers have a motor vehicle. Svensson estimates that perhaps one in ten gets a job on any given day, implying a great deal of time spent standing around and just shooting the breeze.
"On The Corner: Day Labor in the United States." Valenzuela, Abel Jr., Nik Theodore, Edwin Meléndez, and Ana Luz González. University of California, University of Chicago, New School University of New York, 2006. Online access: The first national study of day laborers, built on interviews with 2,660 jornaleros at 264 sites.  Among the findings: most day laborers attend church regularly, and nearly two-thirds of them have children.
"Many Day Laborers Prefer Their Work to Regular Jobs." Cleeland, Nancy. Los Angeles Times. 19 June 1999, Section A, 1. Online access: Interviews and analysis serve to flesh out Abel Valenzuela’s Day Labor Survey data (see below). Librarians dealing with day laborers need to be conscious of the myriad personal factors that lead people to seek work in this manner.
"Paolo Freire Hits LA’s Mean Streets." Bacon, David.
Z Magazine. March 2001, pp. 23-27.
Online access: Pictures of activities at organized day labor hiring sites, together with vivid descriptions of what goes on there, combine with a solid grounding in the educational organizing philosophy of IDEPSCA (affiliated with CHIRLA; see above) to give a fascinating and idoleogically charged affirmation of the humane importance of organized hiring sites, and the expanded possibilities they bring to the lives of day laborers.
"Soul and Faith: Work Wanted. Can CASA Latina Deliver?" Matthews, Todd. Real Change. Online access:
pastarticles/features/articles/ In Seattle, Washington, the community-based organization CASA Latina opened an organized day workers’ center. This is the site whose workers received computer training from Seattle Public Library. CASA Latina is part of the regional jornaleros network that includes the LA-area IDEPSCA/CHIRLA hiring sites.
"Working on the Margins: Immigrant Day Labor Characteristics and Prospects for Employment. Working Paper 22." Valenzuela, Abel Jr. Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, University of California, San Diego, 2000. Online access: Dr. Valenzuela’s Day Labor Survey of 1999 interviewed 481 workers at 87 LA and Orange County sites. Much of his data should be of interest to librarians. Nearly all the workers were Spanish speakers, and all were men. More than ¾ were Mexican; almost 30% had been in the US one year or less, yet 23.4% had been here more than 11 years. Eighty-five percent were undocumented, and one in five of the jornaleros was Central American.. Two-thirds were under 37 years of age. As for education: more than half had 6 years or fewer of formal education, but more than 1/3 had made it to high school or beyond. Nearly 60% looked for day work four or more days of every week. The mean estimated yearly pay was $8,500.

"Day Music on Street Corners: Los Jornaleros del Norte." Alvarado, Pablo. Network News (National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights). Online access:
Perhaps you've seen this terrific band in the Ken Loach film Bread and Roses, read about them in People en Español, or watched them perform in Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, or in their home city of Los Angeles. The Jornaleros del Norte hail from four different nations, but they've all worked as day laborers. Some of them still do. Their CD, Cruzando fronteras, is available through CHIRLA (see above) and is well worth its $10 price. This article by Alvarado--one of the group's members, and a tireless day laborer organizer--is an unusually intimate glimpse into the jornalero experience. (With RealAudio, hear the band on the 10/25/00 edition of the public radio program Marketplace.)

"Diary of a Day Laborer." Arellano, Gustavo. Orange County Weekly. 17-23 August 2001. Online access:  This ethnographic study paints an intimate, perceptive portrait of Spanish-speaking day laborers in Southern California and explains some of the pitfalls--including wasted time, scarcity of information, fierce competition, and abuses by clients--of spending one's days at non-organized hiring sites.
"Cities Confront Clusters of Day Laborers." Ludden, Jennifer. National Public Radio.  2 April 2007. Online access:  Focuses on local municipalities' responses to the day laborer phenomenon and contrasts two tendencies: creation of sanctioned, organized centers versus attempted elimination of the workers' ability to gather and seek work.  Includes an interview with leading activist/organizer Pablo Alvarado (see above).
"Down on the Corner." Jacklet, Ben. Willamette Week. 9 August 2000. Online access: Librarians in northern cities such as Portland, Oregon, might be unaware of the day-labor phenomenon even if it has taken hold in their communities. This article describes some of the conflicts and hostility that often surround even organized hiring sites, and explores the personal circumstances of some of Portland’s Latino day laborers.
Library service to speakers of Spanish:
Library Services to Latinos. Güereña, Salvador, ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2000. While not all of these 17 original essays would be of use to libraries looking for ways to serve Spanish-speaking day laborers, many are excellent and will furnish important insights. Of particular interest are chapters on outreach, including the Queens Borough Public Library's exemplary service to immigrants, and some pieces on cultural and linguistic barriers that impact the library experiences of people who are not native English speakers.
Serving Latino Communities: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians. Alire, Camila, and Orlando Archibeque. New York: Neal Schuman Publishers, 1998. This step-by-step ‘cookbook’ is an essential primer for librarians planning to extend service to marginalized Latino groups, which certainly includes day laborers. Although jornaleros are not specifically mentioned here, many of the principles discussed in the book can be applied to developing services for such groups.
Library Services to Youth of Hispanic Heritage. Immroth, Barbara Froling and Kathleen de la Peña McCook, eds. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2000. Though its chapter on services to farm workers in Florida (also covered in a different essay cited below) is the most directly relevant, this anthology has much else to recommend it, including a chapter on implementation of new services and Oralia Garza de Cortés's "Give Them What They Need," an impassioned challenge to prevailing library management models that cater to the desires of upper-middle-class users.
¡Bienvenidos!  Welcome!  A Handy Resource Guide for Marketing Your Library to Latinos. Byrd, Susannah Mississippi. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2005. Another insightful source for those seeking to craft responsive services that actually draw users.  Byrd brings the perspective of a marketer to the issue and draws heavily from interviews with a rich variety of practitioners.  Again, day laborers are not discussed but the wealth of ideas about services and marketing in general is useful indeed .
Relevant library service topics:
"Building a Partnership: Library Service to Labor." Meyers, A.S. American Libraries v.30, no.7 (August 1999): pp. 52-55. Presents a working example of how public libraries and labor organizations can combine their efforts in mutually beneficial ways: libraries can furnish crucial research assistance, referrals, and meeting places, serving as an important touchstone in organizing campaigns and a source of knowledge about labor law and workplace rights. Union families, by the same token, can become loyal and active library patrons and supporters.
"Defining Information and Referral Service." Croneberger, Robert Jr., and Carolyn Luck. In Social Responsibilities and Libraries, ed. Patricia Glass Schuman, pp. 194-199. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1976. Croneberger, who passed away in 1998, was well known for his innovative library service to groups that are traditionally ignored. While in Detroit, he and his library helped a group of day laborers collect back wages from an employer who tried to stiff them; his essential philosophy described here was that librarians should not be content with providing simple reference and referral service, but should adopt advocacy and follow-up as components of their mission.
"Library Services to Farm Workers in West Central Florida." McCook, Kathleen de la Peña, and Kate Lippincott. In Poor People and Library Services, ed. Karen Venturella, pp. 154-164. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 1998. The authors explain how a coalition of Florida libraries is working to assess and meet the information needs of Spanish-speaking, mostly migrant, agricultural workers. This is a good example of collaborative work addressing service to marginalized groups similar in many ways to jornaleros. This book has several other chapters that would be worthwhile reading for librarians looking for a grounding in the importance of services that go beyond their traditional, comfortable client base.
"Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Powerlessness: The need for a Survival Information Center." Zonligt, Martin J. 1973. ERIC, ED086427. This piece is important because many of the job-related information needs of jornaleros are similar to those of the agricultural workers described here. Urban librarians extending service to day laborers should recognize the difficulties faced by this group in obtaining essential information when mainstream channels are closed off by language differences and discrimination.
TCP: The Children’s Partnership. Online access: Some organized day labor centers, such as the Hollywood Job Center, have computers on site, and others like CASA Latina in Seattle, are able to get jornaleros to library-based classes. Of special interest to librarians is this site’s report on "Online Content for Low-Income and Underserved Americans," with a wealth of information on the Web availability of, for example, multilingual, pluricultural, and low-literacy content, as well as data pertaining to what adult users want and expect of the Internet and information technology.
"Urban Information and Public Libraries: A Design for Service." Bundy, Mary Lee. In Libraries in Society, ed. David Gerard, pp. 108-125. London: Clive Bingley, 1978. A ringing, still-important condemnation of the type of sloppy librarianship that ignores its own social and historical context. Bundy was disgusted by her profession’s "inhumane liberalism," and asserted that librarians are complicit in supporting a "dominant system whose corrupt and twisted values have been historically and currently directed against [the poor]" (p. 109).
Adult Education:
Paulo Freire Institute. Online access:
The English-language portion of this Brazilian site offers bibliographies, ongoing discussion, and explanations of popular education and its principles, together with illuminating biographical and historical sketches of Freire. Like the Kerka piece, this is useful reading for librarians whose thinking on pedagogical topics is likely to be constricted by their own experiences with education, preventing them from fully recognizing potential collaborative possibilities with day labor organizations that operate according to authentic popular education principles.

Liberatory educator Paulo Freire

"Popular Education: Adult Education for Social Change." Kerka, Sandra. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult Career and Vocational Education, 1997. ERIC, ED411415. Online access:
ERIC_Digests/ed411415.html Many of the community-based organizations managing hiring centers have solid roots in Freireian popular education—as is the case with Los Angeles’s IDEPSCA which takes its very name from this pedagogy: Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California. ‘Liberal’ educators are notorious for embracing bastardized versions of Freire that strip his ideas of their liberatory essence and reduce popular education to a set of decontextualized ‘techniques.’ If librarians are to work credibly and effectively with CBOs, they need to understand genuine Freireian praxis, which this article clearly and cogently describes.
Sources of Spanish-language information:
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Información en español.
Online access: A long list of detailed clinical advisory statements is offered here in Spanish, with topics including pregnancy and child care, living with HIV, breast cancer and lower back pain. The authors of this site are careful to distinguish between current and possibly outdated information. For better or worse, many people turn to the Web for health advice, particularly those who don’t have ready access to healthcare—day laborers are in this category.
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. AFSCME en español. Online access: This Spanish-language page has a wide range of links, most of them to sites in Spanish. Many are likely to be of interest to day laborers, especially those who might be having their political consciousness raised or awakened through good popular education classes.
Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse: Biblioteca de guías prácticas. Online access:
 This is essentially a lavish illustrated library of several hundred manuals covering trade skillsplumbing, electrical work, tilesetting, and many othersand home repair, landscaping, and remodeling techniques. The guides, though supplemented with photographs, diagrams, and charts, are perhaps somewhat text-heavy for some users, depending on their patience and reading skills.
U.S. Department of Labor: Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Derechos del trabajador (Rights of Workers Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970).
Online access:  Statutory protections against hazardous working conditions might seem cold comfort to manual laborers who routinely confront workplace dangers, but the very awareness that such laws exist, enforced or not, at national, state, and local levels is a crucial information tool that can arouse clamoring for more humane conditions.
La Red Obrera (Spanish section of LabourNet). Online access: This site focuses on labor issues and has a strong Latin American and European orientation, with important news items organized according to country. Its links to Spanish-language resources, like those of the AFSCME page mentioned above, will give users the chance to connect with and learn from their counterparts around the world.
Tópicos del Servicio de Inmigración
(INS Topics). RCS Consulting.
Online access: The site offers detailed Spanish-language explanations of rules and procedures surrounding green cards, work visas, and other types of immigration papers. Librarians should be able to offer such information instantly when serving an immigrant workforce; it can save a person unnecessary trips to an immigration lawyer, and help him know how to avoid legal problems.
Library services to day laborers:
"Service to Day Laborers: A Job Libraries Have Left Undone." Jensen, Bruce.  RUSQ (Reference & User Services Quarterly v.41, no.3 (Spring 2002): pp. 228-233.  Lists and discusses many of the key information needs of day laborers, provides some background on hiring centers, and describes a modest pilot project that brought library materials to an organized job center.  (This is another in Dr. Kathleen de la Peña McCook's fine series of Community Building columns in RUSQ.)
If you know of any relevant library service or outreach efforts, no matter how modest or seemingly unsuccessful, directed at day laborers or their families, please let us know.