Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

THE EVER-EXPANDING Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

THE EVER-EXPANDING Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress

Article excerpt

As the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, the Library of Congress serves as the research arm of Congress. It's the largest library in the world with millions of items including books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts in its holdings.

The Library of Congress comprises 12 reading rooms with none more important to Hispanic professors and those collecting information on Hispanic history and culture than the Hispanic Reading Room. Housed in the Jefferson Building, it serves as the primary access point for research relating to those parts of the world encompassing the geographical areas of the Caribbean, Latin America and Iberia as well as the indigenous cultures of those areas and peoples throughout the world historically influenced by Luso-Hispanic heritage.

" The Library of Congress houses 12 million items relating to the Hispanic World. Of these 12 million items, two and a half million are books. We oversee these materials. We help people get to these materials such as maps, recordings, manuscripts, reference books and artifacts," said Georgette Dorn, chief of the Hispanic Division at the Library of Congress. "We collect everything. It's the best Hispanic collection in the world. There is so much to be proud of."

The Hispanic Reading Room is the center for Hispanic studies at the Library of Congress and offers services in English, Spanish and Portuguese. About 250 researchers visit the reading room each month to view Hispanic materials of all kinds.

When researchers interested in exploring the library's holdings on Hispanic cultures arrive on the library's campus, they first visit the Madison Building. There they are photographed and given an ID. The ID provides them access to all 12 of the library's reading rooms, is valid for two years and is renewable infinitely. Then they make their way to the Jefferson Building. "They come to the Hispanic Reading room and state their case. We had a recent case of somebody from West Virginia, a professor who came looking for machismo in the works of a certain U.S.-Hispanic writer. So the reference librarian sat down with him at the computer," Dorn said.

When researchers, or as Dorn calls them readers, request materials, it takes the reading room about one hour to secure those materials, provided they are in one of the three buildings on campus. If, however, they are stored off campus in the library's remote location in Cul- pepper, Virginia, it can take up to 24 hours for the materials to arrive at the reading room.

To make the best use of their time, researchers who are planning to visit the reading room can request materials in advance through the library's automated catalog on the Internet. "This is a new service we began offering last year," Dorn said.

Recording the Spoken Word

Visiting the Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress is one way to access Hispanic materials and perform research, but it's not the only way. Today, researchers and the general population can listen to audio recordings of prominent Hispanic writers made available through the Library of Congress's website.

In 1943, American poet Archibald MacLeish who was the Librarian of Congress at the time began recording the readings of poets and writers. During the process, someone came to be recorded. …

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