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Presidential Message August 2011

I would like to congratulate our colleagues for organizing an interesting, efficient and enjoyable conference in Philadelphia this past May. The theme “Preserving Memory: Documenting and Archiving Latin American Human Rights” was timely and of interest to us all. Many excellent presentations were held, thanks to the work of our past president Nerea Llamas. Many thanks as well to our excellent hosts, Joe Holub and David Murray of the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University libraries and our very generous sponsors.

Several important issues were expressed this year at the two Executive Board meetings, the Business meeting and at Town Hall. Executive Board Member-at-Large Sean Knowlton (Columbia University) presented a list of proposals compiled by Patricia Figueroa (Brown University) that represent concerns voiced by SALALM members in recent years:

  • that SALALM change its name to reflect the reality of the work we accomplish; i.e. a name that is more general in nature and by default more inclusive
  • that the SALALM conference be limited to 3 days instead of 5
  • that we eliminate panels and themes from our meeting so that we can devote more time to our committees, regional meetings and vendors
  • that we meet and celebrate SALALM in conjunction with LASA, mimicking the arrangement that MELA and MESA have for their yearly congresses. This arrangement would provide an outlet for SALALM members who must present a paper in order to receive funding to attend. The conference need not take place at the same hotel as LASA, but rather the same city and dates.

While some of these concerns have surfaced at various moments in our organization’s history, the present economic crisis has brought them to the fore once again. We are faced with a shrinking membership; our institutions provide less professional development funding than in the past; and conference costs are rising.

In order to address these proposals, I have named an ad-hoc Membership Survey Committee to collect information, opinions and ideas relating to the above issues. Members include Anne Barnhart (chair), David Block, Mary Jo Zeter, John Wright and Patricia Figueroa. Please respond thoughtfully to their survey which will be sent out in early fall.

A second committee will work concurrently with the Survey Committee to investigate the consequences, cost and feasibility of a name change for the organization. Ideas for new names or new meanings for our existing acronym will be explored. Should the membership agree on the desirability of a name change (via the survey process), the work of this committee will provide helpful information. The SALALM Name Change Committee includes Sócrates Silva, Melissa Gasparotto, Stephanie Miles and Sean Knowlton.

Treasurer Peter T. Johnson put forward a related proposal geared toward increasing membership in our organization. An initial SALALM scholarship of $1,000 will be awarded to a student enrolled in an MLS program (in the U.S.) who intends to work in the field of Latin American Studies, and who will join our organization.

In response to some of the concerns expressed above, I plan to experiment with the format of next year’s SALALM meeting. We will we return to a slightly more economical 4-day schedule; at the same time, I would like to create more time and space to work with each other and with our vendors, who are an integral part of our organization. I plan on repeating a version of the successful Libreros Workshop which was held in Philadelphia and organized by John Wright, Ellen Jaramillo and Stephanie Miles. Based on the feedback I heard, it provided a necessary forum for communicating information about the technological changes we face in our professions. Although I will continue to organize panels, workshops and committee meetings, there will be fewer of them. I encourage committees and affiliated groups who meet or work outside of our annual meeting to consider foregoing a meeting at SALALM if at all possible.

And last but not least, for those of you who have not yet heard, SALALM LVII will be held in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T!), from June 16-19, 2012. Our hosts will be the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago and the Library Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) and meetings will be held at the Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre, Port of Spain. Our theme will be “Popular Culture: Arts and Social Change in Latin America.” I hope that we will be able to attract colleagues from across the Caribbean as well as from South America. A call for papers and will be released soon, and I look forward to receiving your ideas and contributions!

 

Lynn Shirey
Harvard University

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