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:
Claudia Escobar Vallarta studied her undergraduate degree and Masters’ degree in Library Science at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. For the past five years she has been a faculty member at the Daniel Cosío Villegas Library at the El Colegio de México, first as a cataloger and now currently as a bibliographer assigned to the Center for Demographic, Urban and Environmental Studies. She has given workshops on cataloging and library science. She has been a writer at Infotecarios since the beginning of the project, writing on subjects related to information organization.
Saúl Martínez Equihua has a Bachelor’s degree in Library Science from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and is an analytic programmer with his experience rooted in library technology. He has participated as a panelist on library technology in many conferences and wrote the book Biblioteca digital: conceptos, recursos y estándares. He is currently working on this thesis for the Master’s degree in library science, also from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. He currently collaborates with Bibliogtecarios, Infotecarios, and works at e-Tech Solutions, Corp.
What is a trend in library science that interests you and why?
Claudia: My answer will necessarily be related to my role as a librarian, as for years I’d been working exclusively as a cataloger. I had the privilege to work with rare and antique library materials and I really enjoy the opportunity to work in the cataloging area of the library.
I’m thrilled about the new ways to discover information proposed on the family of conceptual models associated to FRBR and RDA and the way our catalogs will eventually face these changes. I also look forward to the development of Linked Data and their opportunities of relevance to the internet and to cataloging as well as the participation of other communities in the creation of data, for example on the Name Authority work. Two years ago I had to switch my main labor to a reference area, so now I take user experience more into consideration, the way they respond or interact with the search engine and how that contribute to the organization of the information.
Saúl: My interest is focused on the relationship between technologies and its role in libraries. I want to know how libraries can be the most popular place in the world by using ICT technology.
How did you become interested in library science?
Claudia: Well to be honest I wanted to be a librarian ever since my childhood, because my mother is a librarian too. I remember myself thinking about the things I love to do, and the first thing that cross my mind was “to read”, so it was like a natural way to follow for me. Then when I had to choose my career I also considered the idea (or myth) that Library science was a field with a lot of job opportunities. Sadly since I’m a librarian with a 7-year-old son, I don’t have much time to read for pleasure.
Saúl: My story is, in some ways, similar to other colleagues in Mexico and Latin America. I first came across librarianship in a casual manner, and with a little help from fate. One day a friend talked me about librarianship. At the time, I was interested in computer engineering. Because of this newly found interest, I applied to Library School and Engineering School. I was accepted by the Library School Program but rejected by the School of Engineering.
Along the way, I’ve learned much about libraries and their relation to information technologies and computers. I believe that Library Science is a multidisciplinary subject and this is why many people who are novices in the field become fascinated when they begin to research, study, work in libraries and its ecosystem.
What do you think are some of the greatest challenges facing libraries in Latin America?
Claudia: The library as an active catalyst of the social change. Nowadays, I think that enforcing the social relevance of the library in our communities is a great challenge that needs to be faced. Latin America still faces political and economic conditions that contribute to the increase in the huge gap between our people. Libraries as a place that promotes equal access to education, information, technology, arts, fun, even health services and many other things, is an opportunity to gain social relevance. In Mexico for example, with so much violence going on, libraries and librarians have the chance to offer comfort and peace to people in crisis by providing the people with those things I’ve mentioned.
Saul: Nowadays libraries have a wide array of challenges and opportunities. The world is aware of the complex situation that Latin America faces, both economically and politically. Yet, I believe that this complexity brings an opportunity to innovate, get closer to library patrons, and develop multidisciplinary teams to work with these opportunities.
One of the challenges that libraries are facing is the development of information technologies that can be used within the libraries to promote new services.
Libraries are a living entity. At times we find different names for what a library is or can be. However, the most important aspect that the library staff should take into account is the satisfaction of its patrons. Although, technology is an important aspect, it is nonetheless only a tool that help the personnel obtain results. Most importantly, the library, as part of the information ecosystem, needs to meet the patrons’ information needs, and needs to try to go a step further by providing a space that promotes the use of the imagination, promotes growth, and provides entertainment. We need to create a library that is more inclusive.
Where do you work? Describe a typical day.
Claudia: I work at the Daniel Cosio Villegas Library at the El Colegio de México, an academic library specialized in the social sciences and the humanities. This library is recognized because of the collection and specialized services provided to the faculty and also the academic community in general. As a bibliographer the first thing I usually do is check my mail and respond to the inquiries from students and professors. For that I have a way to select those questions that can easily been solved then those that need more time and let the user know that I’m working on it. At this time of the year I’m doing some citation searching reports, for the professors, so I might be looking citations for the report. I’m also in charge of the “Virtual reference” for a couple of hours, according to a calendar. Then I do some selection and acquisitions work, mainly from library donations, and on the afternoon I go to the shelves to do some inventory labor too.
Saúl: I am a training specialist in e-Tech Solutions Corp., a company that sells information resources to libraries. In a normal day I wake up at 4 a.m., go to the airport, and travel to libraries located in Mexico or other countries. My main task is to teach librarians and patrons how they can take advantage from information resources to use in their research and academic activities. This training also takes into account the information literacy aspects. In other occasions, I work as a consultant. As a consultant I share my personal experience and my experience with libraries. This is not limited to the use of information resources; it also includes recommending problem-solving techniques in various departments or areas in the libraries.
I have to admit that I love my job. I find it thrilling to know about the experiences of other colleagues, especially how they are contributing to the library world by facing its challenges and how they are incorporating technology in their everyday activities.