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Todos somos lectores: Reporting from the 2012 Guadalajara International Book Fair

At 26 you can claim a life of your own and Guadalajara’s 26th International Book Fair (FIL) has certainly lived up to that expectation, having been called the most important book event in the Spanish language by Spain’s leading daily El País, which carried a supplement dedicated to FIL events.

This year Chile was the featured country (also “honored” in 1999) and its book stand experienced such an avalanche of readers that by the second day a young writer said “I want to move to Mexico, here thye read my books,” pointing to her recent novel…clearly on the way to selling out.

Among the profesionales del libro were 100 librarians from the United States as part of the ALA-FIL Pass program, while fewer in numbers than in previous years, they were quite an enthusiastic group of book buyers. Jesus Alonso Regalado (SUNY-Albany) can probably claim to be the single most eager client: he acquired more than 100 new titles at the Chilean stand…and still had several days left!

As usual, the media conglomerates held the largest and most visible stands but there were also signs of other voices with Corredor Sur; Contrabandos; EGALES or Chile’s independent publishers and the more alternative Furia del Libro, all pointing to a segment of the book industry that struggles to remain competitive.

What was to have been a celebration of the literary prize awarded since 1992 became a cause célèbre: this year’s winner, Peruvian writer Alfredo Bryce Echenique, was accused of plagiarism. His name, while barely mentioned by organizers, still appeared in news coverage. With multiple events held in his honor, it almost felt as if the recently deceased Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes had been the winner. In fact, it was Fuentes who had calmed FIL’s boisterous crowd at the opening ceremony six years earlier as it booed the outgoing Minister of Culture.

The current Minister, Consuelo Saizar, has gained more respect than her predecessor. For a recent profile in the popular culture monthly Gatopardo, Saizar noted among her accomplishments the acquisition of personal libraries of several Mexican writers. These collections are housed in the Biblioteca de México “José Vasconcelos and are being made available to users in a state of the art facility similar to that of Guadalajara’s recently opened Biblioteca Pública del Estado de Jalisco “Juan José Arreola.”

This new Jalisco State Library has a capacity for 2 million volumes and among its holdings is the Benjamin Franklin collection of works on the United States. On FIL’s opening day, the United States ambassador presented a book donation to augment this collection at a ceremony attended by several REFORMA colleagues and I. This modest attempt at cultural diplomacy is noteworthy and could be replicated elsewhere, it costs so little and goes so far.

Librarians were not just book buyers: Paloma Celis Carbajal (Univ. of Wisconsin) participated on a panel discussion about the editoriales cartonersas; Patricia Figueroa (Brown University) was busy interviewing new writers for Nuevas Referencias, her bilingual blog; and I presented on
e-books.

One of the local dailies misquoted some of my presentation but Milenio’s summary of the current e-book landscape in U.S. libraries and the need for additional Spanish language digital content was right on the mark.

I hope to continue presenting with humor and tono jocoso, as the Guadalajara daily complimented this humble experto!

Adan Griego, Stanford University Libraries

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