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Orange County Focus

WESTMINSTER : Library Has Noteworthy Collections

April 12, 1993|ANDREA HEIMAN

Patrons find more at their local county library branch than just the brand-new Encyclopedia Britannica and well-worn copies of Huckleberry Finn.

The library has one of the largest collections of Asian-language materials in the county, including the largest collection of Vietnamese-language materials. It also has the largest supply of "talking books" for the blind in the county, with the only comparable collection at the Braille Institute in Los Angeles.

The well-lit, well-signed foreign-language section includes books, videos and cassettes in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Spanish and Vietnamese. More than 10,000 of the 130,000-piece library collection is Vietnamese, 1,500 are in Korean, Japanese or Chinese, 300 are in Thai and 2,000 are in Spanish.

The library also has a 60-inch television and VCR available by appointment. Videos available include those that teach immigrants about American society, laws, elections and schools.

The library also offers a large supply of English-as-a-second-language materials.

"This collection is very important. We have a lot of immigrants who want to learn English," said senior library administrator Su Chung. She said the library has about 800 new registerees a month, about half of whom are immigrants.

"They're very grateful, because in their country their library system is not like here. They appreciate the system here and the service," Chung said. "The books and videos also remind them of home."

Jason Nguyen, who came to this country from Vietnam five years ago, said he has used the library for English-as-a-second-language books and tapes, as well as for books and tapes in his own language. "It helps me learn more about my language so I remember what I have forgotten," said the Garden Grove resident.

Under the county budget that takes effect in July, the library will be forced to cut back its services, hours and collection. Chung said she is not sure yet how much the cuts will affect the supply of foreign-language materials but said it will be in proportion to the general library cuts. She said the cuts will be so extreme that high-demand books, which now have a two-week waiting period, will probably have a one-year waiting period.

"It will be a big hit to patrons because . . . the lines will be longer, we'll have fewer copies and more people," she said.

Recordings for the blind should not be affected by the budget cuts because it is a free service provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped under the auspices of the Library of Congress.

That rotating collection, which includes magazines and unabridged books recorded on cassette or floppy disc, is given to those who are eligible along with a free cassette or talking book machine.

"People tell us this is a great service," said Helen Ditte, who has coordinated the program for 15 years. "Our youngest patron has been 6 years old, (and we have some) up to 99. They say they don't know what they would do without it. Many of these people have read all their lives, but as their eyesight deteriorated, they felt the need to continue reading."

Barbara Toye, who has been blind for 17 years, said she is grateful for Westminster's service.

"I like it because I can order books from Braille Institute in L.A., but I don't always get them, or the book will come years later," said Toye, 57. "At Westminster, my husband reads a brief description, and I can take it right away. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a Western, mystery or romance, and it's nice to be able to take a book you want when you want it."

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