Voces del Sur (Voices from the South): Colombia [Series]

Editor’s note: This post is part of our series entitled Voces del Sur: Rethinking LIS from the Latin American and Caribbean Perspective, featuring writers from the blog Infotecarios. Guest bloggers will answer questions about their experience as librarians and library school students in Latin America and the Caribbean. Head on over to Infotecarios to read this post in Spanish

Meet our contributors:


Natalia Duque Cardona is currently a doctoral student in Human and Social Sciences at the National University in Bogotá, Colombia. She also holds a master’s degree in Education with a focus on intercultural education; and an undergraduate degree in library science from the Inter American School of Library Science in Medellín. She currently teaches library science at the Inter American School of Library Science and provides consulting expertise to various library and literacy projects throughout Colombia.




Jaider Ochoa has a master’s degree in Science, Technology and Innovation and Library Science from the University of Antioquia in Medellín, Colombia. He is passionate about the use of technology in information work and currently teaches at his alma mater and forms part of a research group at the Inter American School of Library Science in Medellín. 





Mauricio Fino-Garzón has an undergraduate degree Information Sciences from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia. He has worked for a variety of libraries and information services organizations in Bogotá since graduating. He enjoys traveling and learning and writing about libraries and librarianship in other countries.


How did you become interested in library science?

Natalia: I got interested in library science when I realized that all of the people I knew who were doing interesting things were librarians. One day when I was at the Book Fair, I started asking who read out loud, told stories, talked about children’s and young adult literature, who knew famous writers, illustrators and narrators. The people who were in libraries, reading rooms, and who used big glasses and dressed in brightly colored clothing…those were the people who always had a book to recommend and a poem to read to you. And the answer I got was, they were librarians. And this is how I got interested in library science. Now I know that it was the human side that captivated me, that clicked for me, and caused love at first sight. Simply put, it’s words that made me fall in love with library science, and as a matter of fact, even today it’s still my life’s passion.

JaiderMy story starts in the La Esperanza public library in Medellín. When I was a child my mother took me to her bookbinding classes there, and I lived in a dreamworld surrounded by books. Years later, when I was in high school, I was part of the Club de Amigos de la Biblioteca La Esperanza, and that’s where I discovered the true meaning of the public library: it was a place that not only organized and cared for collections of books, but it was a place that helped build networks and to make meanings and connections. Because of those experiences, I decided to apply for the library science program at the Universidad de Antioquia in Medellín, and it was there that I found a whole new world to discover. Along with my passion for technology, it has allowed me to get to know areas that not only relate to the library but also intersect with many other professional spheres, where we can “create magic with information management.”

MauricioWhen I finished high school at age 16, I had no idea what I wanted to study in college. I looked at a variety of programs, from philosophy to communications, but I still wasn’t decided. Then I had the chance to travel to the United States. It was the first time I had left Colombia on my own. It was a good opportunity to improve my English, visit many spectacular places and make a lot of new friends. But as great as it was, I still felt directionless and undecided about my future plans. Through a friend in Colombia who comes from a family of librarians, I got to know about library science. It opened up a totally new and wonderful world for me. I looked at which universities in Colombia offered undergraduate degrees in library science and I decided to apply to the program at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá. I enjoyed every moment in the program, and I got to participate in many academic events in Colombia and abroad, and I even co-organized a national conference for library science students. I can say without a doubt I made the best decision to choose library science, and I passionately live it every day.

What is a trend in library science that interests you and why?

NataliaHm, trends? I think what really interests me hasn’t been a trend per se. I can say that what interests me is everything related to library science that is the social, cultural and political aspect–basically, the relationships between language and society, the library and the readers is the heart of the matter. This is what interests me, but with a focus on decolonization, interculturality. The social component of the library that focuses on decolonization and interculturality is my passion (readers, memory, diversity, libraries). There is a key component in this that is also an inflection of the decolonization of library science, the relationship between pedagogy with library science and the study of social memory.

JaiderIn the areas in which I work there are a few trends that relate to the use of tech:

  • Big data analysis and competitive intelligence, which are some research areas that interest me. These kinds of tools allow organizations to get data from internal and external sources so that they can capture that information, analyze it, and use it to make decisions so that they can innovate. Here librarians have started to get to a place where we have the knowledge and skills and know the tools for searching, using and organizing large amounts of information. However, we still need to convince ourselves that we’re capable and start working in areas that might not be exactly related with libraries.
  • Scholarly communications, Science 2.0. It’s one of the most talked about areas in recent times. Scholarly communications are changing in the face of social tools (like Web 2.0). Scholarly social networks, wikis, blogs, repositories and other options for publishing are breaking with traditional venues of publication.
  • Open Access. The monopoly and abuses of the big journals and editorial houses with respect to open access to research databases has caused a surge in the open access movement, which continues to grow and foster open access to scholarly production. Scholarly repositories and open access journals have played a fundamental role in strengthening academic communities that are behind this initiative. Latin America has had growth in this area through projects such as La Referencia and through collaborative research projects in the region.
  • Altmetrics. The development of science 2.0 and the appearance of non-traditional information resources, such as the development of digital scholarly repositories, have shown that the traditional methods and tools are inadequate. This has led to the development of alt-metrics that allow us to measure the impact of scholarly production within the “network of the networks.”
  • Labs. We need to think about the library as creative spaces, spaces for interaction and active learning, taking advantage of the technology at our disposal and reinforcing the concept that the librarian actively think of themselves as “change agents.” We also need to think of the library as a dynamic space, that is inviting and flexible enough so that our patrons can satisfy their informational needs.

MauricioI second this shared vision that we need to understand and use innovation as a strategic tool to impact the transformation of information services and to create more value for our users; of course, this has to be in dialogue with other perspectives and knowledge bases.

What do you consider the greatest challenges facing libraries and archives in Latin America and the Caribbean?

NataliaI think the most important challenge we have is to start thinking about and proposing a library science of the South, or libraries based on the concept of Abya yala:

  • Libraries that allow oral and written traditions to coexist.
  • Libraries where users are not only readers but also live human treasures.
  • Libraries that work and grow with the community
  • Libraries that foster inclusion and participation of people from diverse groups and backgrounds
  • Libraries where the the written word is not privileged over all other forms
  • Libraries that are based on our land and on our communities and groups

JaiderThe biggest challenge is to think with our communities, not for our communities. The challenge is in making the library a flexible and adaptable organization that is always thinking about its users and their cultures and particular needs, in the form of inclusive libraries, intercultural libraries, and libraries designed for everyone.

MauricioOne very important element for the future of Colombian libraries, archives and museums is encouraging the use of these spaces and their collections, not only to answer the information needs of our users but to also help us solve local issues. For example, today we have a challenge to reflect on, to think about and talk about in terms of the how libraries, museums and archives will fit into the post-conflict process here in Colombia.

An essential element in finding solutions that confront libraries and archives, and especially here in Colombia, is teaching library and information science from a point of view that is critical and disruptive. This perspective is what Natalia, Jaider and I share in common, as young professionals who will be training the future generations of information professionals in our country.


What questions do you have for librarians working in Latin America and the Caribbean?

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