Alfredo Montalvo | In Memoriam

No single entry can do more than begin to capture the liveliness, the enthusiasm, the love of life that characterized Alfredo Montalvo Saenz.  Exchanges on the listserv once people learned of his passing have employed a host of descriptions; they speak of his warmth, magnetism, joy, generosity, indomitable spirit.  They describe him as a hard worker, dreamer, lover of books and libraries — inolvidable.  All have spoken in varied ways of “the remarkable legacy he has left in our hearts, minds and bookshelves.”

Born in the aftermath of the catastrophic Chaco War and witness to the Revolution of 1952, Alfredo experienced turmoil and unpredictability from an early age — just the right background for the irrepressibly optimistic, charismatic, generous person we have known.  It is so hard to accept that he is gone.

After completing his basic schooling in Cochabamba, Alfredo came to the United States for college and graduate school.  He earned his Bachelor of Arts (in history) at Kentucky Wesleyan College, mastering English and surviving away from the family and the Bolivian cuisine he loved.  Books were already becoming central to his life and he next earned a Master of Arts in Library Science at George Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt).  A year later, he entered the University of Florida to study linguistics.  It proved to be a fateful choice.  There he met Irene Zimmerman, and she approached with the idea that he might think of setting up a small business to supply Bolivian books to several North American libraries.  Obviously he found the idea tempting, so tempting that the pursuit of linguistics study would end after a single year.  During that year, though, Alfredo added a passable knowledge of French and German to his existing mastery of English and decided to put his language skills to practical use with a fast-paced trip through Europe.  Along with a group of young women, one an Irish lass with particular charms, he toured the continent in a Volkswagen bus, accessorized with a keg of wine mounted on the roof and a plastic tube threaded into the passenger compartment.  It has been said he also studied in Germany that year and may even have worked as an orderly in Switzerland — but how many of the tales of the many sides of Alfredo are fully accurate we are unlikely ever to know.

The European jaunt over, Alfredo seized on Irene Zimmerman’s idea, and began building the business that would occupy so much of his life.  He styled his firm first as Editorial Inca, offering his stock — mostly from Bolivia — to library customers through SALALM.  It was a selection he acquired working almost as a plasita in reverse, going door to door buying not just books, but also periodicals and pamphlets, the sorts of materials he hoped is growing list of customers would find valuable.  Over time, his purview expanded to include all the Andean countries — Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela — operating as Libros Andinos.

In recent years Libros Andinos has relied on agents living in each region–these are the helpful folk who acquire our purchases at FILBO.  However, Alfredo has not always operated in such an orthodox manner.  In 1985 a member of SALALM ran across him in the old city of Quito at the end of a two-week buying tour.  Alfredo’s room was filled with books, so many that his landlord had ordered him not to stack them in the middle for fear of collapsing the floorboards.  In addition to the books (and a single bed) the room had a worktable and two young women furiously typing away.  They proved to be Colombian secretaries on holiday.  Somehow Alfredo had cajoled them into typing invoices for shipments to the United States — and even helping him to wrap the parcels.  His comment? They were “bored with Quito.”  At one time or another, he also enlisted the members of his deeply loved family into his project, from microfilming to packing, to helping find just the right book for one of us. We know their loss is even deeper than ours.

In 2000 Alfredo took on a challenging (and at times risky) venture, microfilming newspapers, first for the Library of Congress and subsequently for members of the Latin American Research Resources Project.  He was also willing to engage in the labor intensive acquisition of gray materials for research libraries.  Princeton University’s Digital Archive of Latin American and Caribbean Ephemera and the Alfredo Montalvo Bolivian Digital Pamphlets Collection, mounted at Cornell, owe many of their images to Alfredo’s collecting.  Alfredo would never question the judgment of his clients as they made suggestions, but from time to time many of us would note that he had added (often at no charge) items that we would recognize as both timely and of real potential value to scholarship — he cared for our collections.

His interest in scholarship was coupled with a strong sense of loyalty to the people of his country.  In Cochabamba Alfredo lived on a four-hectare compound in the Frutillar district, on the northern outskirts of the city.  Here he built Biblioteca Inca, which became the second largest library in Bolivia, a pair of book depósitos, a dormitory, and an apartment building. Over the years Alfredo projected a variety of uses for his property, and while they never came to full fruition, he never ceased his efforts to make the library and living spaces a venue for research.  A Bolivian student, much impressed, composed a report on the compound: “Frutillar: la Biblioteca Inca entre la naturaleza y los libros.”  In that report, the writer introduces Alfredo with yet another descriptor: “personaje de leyenda.”

That sounds about right.
By David Block and Paula Covington

SALALM Membership Application 2018-2019

It’s time to JOIN OR RENEW MEMBERSHIP and SIGN UP FOR COMMITTEES! If you prefer to email or snail-mail your paperwork, please use the forms below.

¡Es hora de UNIRSE O RENOVAR MEMBRESIA e INSCRIBIRSE EN COMITES! Si prefiere enviar su documentación por correo electrónico o por correo postal, utilice los formularios a continuación.

É hora de SE JUNTAR OU RENOVAR A ASSOCIACAO e SE INSCREVER PARA OS COMITES! Se você preferir enviar e-mails/correio, por favor use os formulários abaixo.

SALALM Membership Application 2018-2019 pdf
Committee Preference Form 2018-2019 pdf
Word Documents
SALALM Membership Application 2018-2019 doc
Committee Preference Form 2018-2019 doc

SALALMistas in the news – Summer edition

Many SALALM members have had an active summer in terms of publications. Here is a list of recent research activities.

Melissa Gasparotto, published an article titled “Using Google’s Custom Search Engine Product to Discover Scholarly Open Access and Cost-Free eBooks from Latin America” in the journal Revista Interamericana de Bibliotecología.

Betsaida Reyes, Alison Hicks and Bronwen Maxson published an article titled “Information literacy practices of Spanish-speaking graduate students at the University of Kansas” in the journal portal: Libraries and the Academy.

Bronwen Maxson et al. published an article titled “Does course guide design impact student learning?” in College & Undergraduate Libraries. 

Bronwen Maxson et al. published an article titled “The Boolean is dead, long live the Boolean! Natural language versus Boolean searching in introductory undergraduate instruction” in College & Research Libraries.

Gustavo von Bischoffshausen published a book titled Teatro popular en Lima. Sainetes, zarzuelas y revistas 1890-1945 (Máquina de ideas, Lima),

Cristian Brayner  published a book titled A Biblioteca de Foucault – Reflexões sobre ética, poder e informação (É Realizações Editora, Sao Paulo).

Margarita Vargas-Betancourt, Jessica L. English, Angelibel Soto, Melissa Jerome had a chapter accepted for publication in the book,  Archives and Special Collections as Sites of Contestation to be published by Library Juice Press in 2019.

Dan C. Hazen Fellowship – Call for Proposals

The Dan C. Hazen SALALM Fellowship is now open for applications until October 28.

The Fellowship supports original scholarly research or professional development pertaining to Latin America, the Caribbean and Iberia. An applicant must be a SALALM member for at least three years as verified by the SALALM Secretariat, and have documented engagement with the activities of the organization through continuous active participation. Thus, eligibility is for junior, mid and senior status in the profession. In the case of joint research applications, a designated principal investigator must meet the above noted membership requirement. Fellows awarded during the previous three years may be awarded as funding permits.

For more information, please visit the Dan. C. Hazen Fellowship page. Questions about the substance or process should be directed to or

SALALM Statement on Trump Administration’s Travel and Immigration Policies

SALALM Statement on Trump Administration’s Travel and Immigration Policies

U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders on visas, immigration, and the building of a border wall between Mexico and the United States are of grave concern to the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM).  For over 60 years, we are established as a leading professional association of U.S.-based and international research libraries and archives working collaboratively with publishers and information professionals in Latin America to secure and make available research collections related to Latin America and the Caribbean. A cornerstone of our mission is to promote and build upon cooperative efforts to achieve better library services and information exchange across national borders.

As research librarians, archivists and information professionals, we are dedicated to promoting greater understanding of Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain, Portugal, and Latino/Hispanic communities within the United States and throughout the world.  We are committed to providing access to information to all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin or immigration status, and to encourage collaborative scholarly work across borders.  Any measure, state-sponsored or otherwise, that hinders users from accessing our resources or services, including the fear of deportation and the inability to travel to use our collections, undermines our mission.

The Trump Administration’s immigration ban creates a hostile climate for foreign students, scholars and information professionals, including librarians, archivists, booksellers and publishers who seek to collaborate with institutions and colleagues in the United States. It also may pose a threat to foreign-born permanent residents who face a hostile reception or detainment on their way back into this country, and subjects U.S. colleagues on professional travel abroad to possible retribution from other states.

As part of the larger community of librarians and archivists, we share the concerns of the American Library Association and the Association of College & Research Libraries that these orders are in opposition to the core values of our profession, including a commitment to intellectual freedom; access to information; diversity and inclusion; and privacy and confidentiality.