A first-timer’s reflections on SALALM LX

For me, attending SALALM LX was an invaluable professional experience. I was able to get a real sense for how the organization functions, the important work that SALALMistas do, and how I could apply my own skills to contribute to the field in the future.

I attended many of the committee meetings during the initial days of the conference and I found this introduction to be extremely informative. Before attending SALALM, I had only a vague idea of what SALALM members did. I thought the job simply consisted of collecting Spanish-language resources, when in reality it entails a high degree of critical thinking and strategic planning. For example, in the SIS meeting (formerly ISIS), we discussed how materials related to the “15 de Mayo” movement in Spain would soon be in high demand as members of that movement rise to positions of national power and influence. We also discussed possible collaborations with other organizations with similar agendas (Association of Contemporary Iberian Studies) as well as ongoing projects to which and from which SIS could contribute and learn (Spanish Immigrants in the United States). In the LANE meeting, members discussed the BorrowDirect Consortium and their collaborative efforts to collect materials from different regions in Brazil, while LASER members considered their plans to enhance collections of indigenous-language materials between their respective institutions. In the LAMP and LAARP meetings, I heard compelling appeals for funding for a variety of important projects, and it was in these meetings that I grasped the real significance of SALALM-funded initiatives to both current research and the historical record. At the same time, I learned how these committees make difficult but necessary funding decisions. Finally, at the Research and Instruction Services meeting, it was refreshing to hear panel members discuss the future of libraries with particular regard to “internationalization” and creating university courses based on library resources.

The panel sessions proved equally informative. I learned about the new initiatives and directions in Latin American librarianship from a host of participants from all over the world. In many cases, I also witnessed enriching exchanges of ideas as presenters discussed projects undertaken at their respective institutions and received feedback and questions from their peers. It was encouraging to see the high level of interest expressed by panel attendees and it truly felt like a mutually beneficial learning experience for all involved. I was also thrilled to hear the keynote presentation by Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, whose ideas about the symbolic power of libraries tie into my own dissertation research.

Of the numerous advantages of SALALM attendance, the opportunity to meet and learn from other SALALM members surely ranks among the best. I met so many welcoming, knowledgeable, and conscientious people at SALALM LX. In our conversations I learned about the professional responsibilities of Latin American librarianship, potential job openings in the future, as well as how to best position myself as a candidate for those jobs upon completing my Ph.D. and MLIS. I found that I could comfortably approach all SALALM members and everyone was more than happy to talk to me about their jobs and learn about my own training and experiences. I was fortunate enough to talk with some experienced SALALM members in addition to some newer members, both of whom offered different and valuable perspectives on the organization and the field in general. I also met many of the book vendors from Latin America and elsewhere with whom I hope to work someday.

To conclude, I feel very fortunate to have attended SALALM LX. As I near the end of my graduate career and consider the looming job market, it is encouraging to know that an organization like SALALM exists, one in which I can effectively utilize my particular skill set and training in efforts to improve research and access to Latin American resources. After the warm reception and rewarding conversations I had at SALALM, I definitely plan on returning to future conferences and I sincerely hope to one day contribute to the organization as a full-fledged member from a participating institution.