Magazine article American Libraries

Latino Reference Arrives

Magazine article American Libraries

Latino Reference Arrives

Article excerpt

Latino reference arrives

WHEN CHICANO* STUdentsfirst begin to research such topics as "undocumented workers,' they encounter subject headings like "illegal aliens.' Suddenly they realize, at an emotional, if not always a cognitive level, that in order to gain access to libraries they will have to learn a new discourse.

* Mexican-American, from Mejicano.

The language of libraries is charged withgovernment-prescribed negative value judgments about our Latino culture and community. I use the word Latino deliberately when referring to my culture, because the term is self-defining. Our government prescribes the word "Hispanic' to define my group of Americans.

Libraries have never been neutral institutionsin American life; they reflect and reproduce societal relationships. In the seminal work, The Apostles of Culture, Dee Garrison links the development of public libraries to the decline of the "genteel' tradition--a concept of major importance in understanding the traditional role of libraries in reproducing the dominant culture.

To respond to the needs of students, Latinoand sympathetic Anglo librarians have developed special collections, reference services, and instruction programs. This is not a recent phenomenon: today's Latino librarians build on the work of such dedicated professionals as the late Carlos Eduardo Castaneda, the Mexican-born archivist and historian at the University of Texas/Austin. Head of the university's Latin American Collection in 1927-42, Castaneda acquired major works and inaugurated countless exchange programs, creating what is now the distinguished Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.

During the 1960s many academic librariesresponded to the needs of Latino students by developing ethnic subject bibliographies. Ray Padilla has criticized these as superficial efforts (see list of references). Many libraries have a selection of Latino books produced by mainstream publishers but have failed to develop serious research collections.

Puerto Rican and Chicano centers

At other universities, special Puerto Ricanand Chicano collections emerged as alternatives to mainstream libraries during the 1960s. Chicano and Puerto Rican librarians, students, and some faculty members worked to set up ethnic collections that included the full spectrum of materials--books, journals, newspapers, articles, bulletins, reports, dissertations, and audiovisual materials. In many respects, these collections resemble archives.

By 1975, librarians in some successfulethnic collections turned their efforts toward specializing in subject areas, types of material, or automated services, or a combination of these. UCLA's Chicano Studies Research Library, established in 1969, has established a fine dissertation collection and uses a microcomputer in most of its operations. At the University of California/Berkeley, the Chicano Studies Library, which also dates from 1969, has developed the most extensive collection of serials and has been at the forefront of automation efforts in developing the Chicano Data Base. Stanford University set up a special Chicano Collection. The University of Texas/Austin strengthened the Benson Collection by creating a Mexican American Library Program. At the University of California/Santa Barbara, the Colection Tloque Nahuaque has recently acquired major collections in the areas of theater and art.

To facilitate communication and cooperation,Chicano collection librarians at the University of California/Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara, and California State University at Fullerton have formed the Chicano Information Management Consortium of California.

Other major Chicano university collectionsinclude those at Arizona State University and the University of Texas/El Paso. At its East Los Angeles Branch, the Los Angeles County Library has set up the Chicano Resources Center, a leading example of a public library research collection. …

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