Interview with SALALM Scholarship Awardee: Talía Guzmán-González

How did you find out...

How did you find out about the SALALM Scholarship?

I received an email through my MLS program at the University of Maryland, but I had seen it announced on the SALALM website before as well.

Did you know about SALALM before you applied for the scholarship?

Yes, I've known about SALALM since I was in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin. My friend Paloma Celis-Carbajal frequently talked about this great organization focused on Latin American and Iberian collections. As a graduate student in the Portuguese program, I was intrigued by the things I could do with my degree besides teaching.

Where did you earn your MLS/MLIS and what was your area of specialization?

I completed my MLS degree in December, 2016, at the University of Maryland in College Park. I did the general MLS program, but took many classes on Archives.

What drew you to the field of librarianship/archival studies?

As I was completing my graduate studies in Luso-Brazilian literature, I wanted to expand my professional options beyond the tenure path. I did go to the job market, had job offers and even worked as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Maryland, but becoming an academic librarian was really what interested me because it would allow me to continue working in the field of Latin American studies (beyond my Luso-Brazilian specialty), stay up to date with recent publications and research trends, and participate in a larger academic community. Besides, librarians are awesome, who wouldn't want to be a librarian?

When did or when do you expect to graduate?

I graduated in December 2016.

Do you have other graduate level degrees?

Yes, I have a Ph.D. in Luso-Brazilian studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

How did you become interested in Latin America/Iberia? Describe your language abilities and experiences studying and/or traveling in Latin America.

I am from Puerto Rico, so you can say that I have, in a way, always been interested in Latin America and the Caribbean. As a child I went to a summer camp, Campamento Pioneril 26 de Julio, in Varadero, Cuba. There I met kids from all over the world, and I became friends with many kids from Latin America. I gained a sense of a world much larger than my island and a sort of regional identity. That's probably the first time I became consciously interested in Latin America. Later, I studied my Bachelor's degree in Latin American studies at the University of Puerto Rico, then my MA in Portuguese at Indiana University. I'm a native speaker of Spanish and have near-native fluency in Portuguese and English. I can read French and Italian.

Have you worked with a Latin American/Iberian archival or library collection? In what capacity?

I am currently a Reference Librarian in the Hispanic Division at the Library of Congress, where I am the Luso-Brazilian specialist. I am also the recommending officer for Central American countries. This is my first job as a librarian, so I can't complain: I am working with a pretty amazing collection!

Were you able to attend the annual SALALM conference? When and where?

I attended the 2015 Conference at Princeton University. I think it was fortuitous that my first conference at SALALM focused on Brazil. In a way it was as if all my interests came together in one place. I felt like I had finally found my people!

What was the most interesting or unexpected thing that you learned at the conference?

So many interesting things: the presentations were really good, the tour of the Special Collections and Archives (seeing those letters by Gabriel García Márquez and the book on Palés Matos . . . wow). I also liked Latin American Research Resources Project presentations. I had been at academic conferences before, but this aspect of sharing information and ongoing work was really refreshing and useful to see for a newcomer like me. Unexpected? The party! Librarians dancing and having fun, that was a great.

Did you attend any committee meetings?

I attended several meetings, to see what they were about: the Digital Primary Resources, Membership, and Marginalized Peoples and Ideas. All very interesting.

If you gave a paper or presentation at the conference, give a brief description.

I did not present in my first SALALM, but I will be presenting a paper in the upcoming conference in Ann Arbor.

Was SALALM helpful in the development of your career? In what way?

Yes. SALALM has been helpful in so many ways already. The Conference Attendance Scholarship allowed me to go to Princeton and finally see what SALALM was all about, meet professionals in the field and students like myself who are just starting their careers. Everyone was really supportive and welcoming. Although my career is just starting, I feel like I have a network of people I can count on for professional advice.

Is the SALALM Scholarship listed on your CV?

Proudly and prominently!