Not Too Innocent Abroad: Road Trips with Real Benefits (2014)
Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 8:30-10:00 a.m.
Moderator: Paula Covington, Vanderbilt University
Rapporteur: John Wright, Brigham Young University
- Making Book Fairs Friendlier through Technology — Jesus Alonso-Regalado, State University of New York, Albany
- Acquiring the Unique and Unusual in Latin America and the Caribbean – Teresa Chapa, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
- A First Buying Trip: Searching for Treasure in Trinidad — Adrian Johnson, University of Texas, Austin
- Beyond the Book Trade: Establishing Relationships with Institutions and Scholars — David Block, University of Texas, Austin
Convington began the session sharing some results of her informal survey of SALALM members and their practices of making book-buying trips: 50+% attend one book fair per year, 30% attend 1-4 trips per year, one person reported that s/he attended 11 book fairs in 2012. Some reasons librarians took no trips were lack of funding and time constraints. Benefits of making book-buying trips include creating familiarity with the book market in that country/place, developing relationships with vendors, etc. Some respondents of the survey indicated that they obtain funding to make such trips from their respective libraries through endowments and centers for Latin American studies. Book-buying trips are important ways to acquire older items (retrospective collection development) and to discover what’s new. One respondent to Covington’s informal survey indicated that it is critical to be in Latin America as often as possible if you are to be a bibliographer for Latin American materials.
Alonso-Regalado discussed how technology has always preceded book buying. In his presentation he discussed how technological friendliness at Latin American book fairs (he says, “Not so much.”) He also shared how he uses technology at book fairs. Only Bogotá and Buenos Aires are prepared for mobile technologies. You don’t need an app. But other books fairs have apps. Using apps appears to be more trendy. Cuba, Santo Domingo, Bienal in Brazil, Liber (Spain)—sometimes they use a different Facebook page for each year. Others fairs keep a continuous dialog going. The recommendation is to have one account and use twitter with #[year] for each fair. Wireless is not very good. Without it, you can’t access any of this. It is like building a house by constructing the roof first. It doesn’t make sense. At Guadalajara book fair, some vendors have great wifi. One can ask them to use their passwords or go outside the fair into the city where free wifi exists, in food court areas, etc. E-books have special places. Corner digital, one book fair is all e-books. Most important app is from Germany. You want an app that allows you to open spreadsheet, Docs to Go, connect this to DropBox, generate a list (html) for each country and connect to my library. He carries a list of books wanted by students, and has exchange rates handy. He notes the importance of keeping students and faculty involved in trips through Facebook pictures so they see the books before they are processed; and they can request rapid processing. Alonso-Regalado establishes a strong emotional connection with faculty and highlights the books he feels are most important. He shares on Facebook and sends spreadsheets via email. “Las farias del libro” Cerlac, open access book 2012: http://www.cerlalc.org/files/tabinterno/2f0015_Ferias_Digital.pdf
Chapa views book-buying trips as a way to get access to small press items and handmade books from collectives or individual artists. It also is a good way to get titles with poor or no distribution, such as indigenous literature. She notes that she collects unique and unusual things in order to document 21st-century Latin American popular, literary, social and political culture. She is drawn to items aesthetically and she works to acquire materials that support curricular and research needs of students and faculty. Chapa notes some things to consider before collecting on book-buying trips: How will you get the materials back to your institution? Where will they be housed in your institution? Will the curator/librarian accept the materials? What are the added costs of acquiring these materials—preservation/conservation concerns, cataloging? Who will fund this purchase? Does the material fit into the curriculum? What kind of publicity and outreach can be generated to promote use? Chapa purchased a portable Mayan altar that needed quite an elaborate box. Where to start? Go to independent and specialized bookstores (like El conejo blanco in Mexico City). Go to galleries and cafes, museums and cultural institutions, street fairs, in-country vendor assistance, specialized book art dealers, book artists and bookmaking collectives can be found via websites, Facebook pages, personal contacts.
Johnson discussed his first book-buying trip to Trinidad, sharing the upsides and downsides of the experience. He noted that he got administrative support for the trip by tagging it onto a conference. Then he assessed the collection to identify gaps. The following are his upside and downsides:
Upside—I saw the Benson’s collection of Trinidadian music before the trip. Downside—with 150 colleagues in the same place doing the same thing, I didn’t realize how picked over the resources would be. Upside—Unique places. I looked for unique places before and was prepared. Downside—Some of these unique places were closed or didn’t have anything. Upside—Some of these unique places came through. I found back issues of the Carnival Magazine. Downside—Carrying around a bag’s worth of materials all day and week. Plan ahead to deal with the materials you buy. Upside—Coffee shops with wireless were very beneficial. Upside—Connections/friends who were always willing to help. Downside—I could have bought many things from our libreros. Upside—Having a camera to use while searching. Downside—Didn’t take enough pictures to document work trip. Upside—meeting new, fun, interesting and crazy people along the way.
Block indicated that we are fantastic travelers. We should know where our faculty are going, what they are doing pre- and post-research. We are lucky to have the great libreros in SALALM who do such great work for us. Why should we travel? 1) Some materials are best in situ. Feature films and musical performances are examples. Others include cheat maps, street literature, publications from political parties, 2) Insinuating ourselves in cultural institutions and scholars, and 3) Navigating cultural patrimony. He tries to evaluate the scholarly interest and object location. David warned that when we return home we need to be careful when filling out the immigration reentry forms. Be careful how you indicate what you are bringing in or out of a country. Librarians may be facing documentary repatriation in the future.
Peter Bushnell (University of Florida)—Do sound recordings at the University of Texas, Austin go into the Benson Institute or the Fine Arts Library? Johnson has spoken with the Fine Arts Library. Patrons will be able to go into the catalog to identify items, but then will be able to pick up their desired materials at either the Benson or the Fine Arts Library.
Adán Griego (Stanford University)—Teresa mentioned independent publications—connection between group PDF catalog is existent. Excursions and interesting—went to see Cartonera, Billega & Felicidad. Teresa—it was gone the next year.
Mark Grover (Brigham Young University)—Young colleagues have interest in our collections by country, but our collections are not connected by 2nd order of interest—we have to select areas/disciplines within the country. For example, German immigration in Santa Catarina, Brazil, family histories, regional histories. These types of materials are in large measure not available in the United States.
Elmelinda Lara (University of the West Indies)—I support Mark’s collection for Trinidad. Get information on LPs, get music. Social commentary is on the cover. Christmas music/Param is important for Trinidad collection. AV materials for humorous recordings. Print materials. Labor movements are another big place. Personal contacts with them. They may deliver them themselves.
Jennifer Osorio (University of California, Los Angeles)—What about when you get back? Understaffed departments.o
Covington responded that you should work more with your Spanish/Portuguese catalogers to help set priorities. Johnson told about featuring the cataloger on Facebook as part of the whole process. Alonso-Regalado indicated that he buys some gifts or sweets for the Technical Services staff. Covington added that she creates lists and gives comments to the cataloger. Chapa said to engage the staff with the newly acquired items. Let them watch the videos, etc. Be good to acquisitions people.
Phil MacLeod (Emory University)—I recently brought back 100-200 books. I got a sense from the folks in acquisitions about how best to process this. Without them the library administration would stop this [my book-buying trips] process. Covington responded that technical services staff are involved in SALALM, and they are involved at Vanderbilt. Adán Griego indicated that giving context to what we are receiving helps technical services colleagues. Griego always expresses gratitude for what they do with the materials he brings home. Johnson responded that he thinks it is important to help Library Administration realize that by going on the trips he is acquiring something unique versus another copy of Tom Sawyer.
Gayle Williams (Florida International University)—Over the last ten years, I have found that preparation is important. I print out and put in a spiral bound notebook. Collection development becomes the orphan of our position because we are so stretched in other directions. By being prepared, we are able to “focus’ our efforts. Serendipity is important as well. You stumble into things. Spread the net wide. Our SALALM book dealers are a great resource when I am on the ground, but I think they may get the wrong idea. Some may ask, “Why not let them do all the work.” It is important for the bibliographer to be on the ground as well. We need to make sure we educate the SALALM book dealers as well so that they understand that going on book buying trips is important for us librarians.
Wendy Griffin—California linguists who help to write and create alphabets are a good place to find indigenous things. Get in touch with local librarians and archivists. They know who the scholars are. They are not buying or acquiring books, but they will know who the people are.
Teresa Chapa—At UNC—Chapel Hill we are allowed to have our faculty who are abroad buy materials that they want. They are reimbursed by the library when they return.
Phil MacLeod (Emory University)—How do you help a 20th-century librarian get into the 21st century? Alonso-Regalado responded that anyone can do this. Technology has always been with us, it is just a different form of technology that we are using now.
Adán Griego (Standford Univeristy)—I walk around with a cuaderno. Jesús Alonso-Regalado (SUNY-Albany)—Another tip—do small cooperative decisions on the fly. Look for hot items, share information with colleagues. That we can have 2 or 3 copies of an item in different regions of the United States.
Margarita Vannini (Instituto de la Historia de Nicaragua)—Patrimonio Cultural—I have an opposite perception. Our countries are well preserved in the libraries of the United States and Germany. Perhaps you could return things to us that only exist in your libraries. We can cooperate and share. We recognize that many things are spread around the world. Can we collaborate to digitize things that will help us to complete our history?
Debra McKern (Library of Congress)-What are you doing with your images of tagging [street art, graffiti]? Block responded that LC is doing things and Princeton is doing things. He will follow their lead. There has been a proposal made at LARRP. LC has BPG and DLOC already doing that. Covington encouraged all who travel to put written reports of our trip up on the SALALM website.