Round Table Discussion on An Online Hub for Latin American History Sources: H LATAM (2014)
Tuesday May 21, 2:00-3:30 PM
Moderator: Lynn Shirey, Harvard University
Rapporteur: Sarah Buck Kachaluba, Florida State University
This session grew out of a discussion on H-Latam, which many SALALMistas belong to. A historian with a specific research question asked if there were an online hub to identify key depositories and open-access search tools for Latin American resources (that would lead him to the resources on a specific topic that he was looking for). Lynn Shirey (Harvard University) and others pointed out that generally requests on H-LATAM are for specific information and a general hub would have limited use for such requests. Thus, Shirey, Rafael Tarrago (University of Minnesota), and others suggested to the person making the query that he or she talk to the Latin Americanist librarian at his or her institution. The problem, however, is that this professor, and many others, probably does/do not have a Latin American specialist(s) at his/their institutions.
As this session was a round table discussion involving most of the audience, this report highlights major points made.
Lynn Shirey (Harvard) began the discussion pointing out that scholars seemed to know about LANIC and perhaps we should look at that as a model. Librarians also mentioned SALALM and institutional repositories at different universities. David Dressing (Notre Dame University) mentioned that there are wonderful digital libraries with primary source material available online but there is no one site that points to these different pages. There is a need for a central hub to get to online, freely accessible, primary sources. Some of the resources mentioned by Dressing and others included the Early American Digital Archive, Libreros Primeros at UT Austin, the University of New Mexico, Tulane, and Princeton University Libraries, the Cuban Heritage Collection at University of Miami, DLOC, and UTEP’s Bracero Project. Dressing pointed out that LANIC is often referred to as a link farm and others agreed. It is hard to keep a site of that scope up and it is overwhelming to search. Dressing said that he had understood the query to be focusing on primary sources, and those present agreed that we would like to focus on helping users gain access to primary sources, which makes sense since the discussion and potential project had grown out of a research need and request from a Historian. Sarah Buck Kachaluba (Florida State University) was also thinking that the portal would point to free webpages and search engines for data, periodical literature, and or books, such as those offered by the UN, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, U.S. government, CEEIB, Redial, Redalyc, Scielo, Cibera, Latindex, CLACSO, and dissertation search databases.
At this point there was discussion and disagreement over whether we wanted to create a reference site (a portal into links) or a database in which you could actually search such resources. Melissa Guy (Arizona State University) introduced Melissa Gasparato’s (Rutgers) idea of purchasing LibGuides or something similar that already existed, which could allow a few editors to create a central hub with this framework. She pointed out that it would be important to distinguish between sources in English and other languages.
Allyson Williams (Inter-American Development Bank) said that it IS possible to have users from multiple institutions share editorship of a libguide. Betsaida M. Reyes (University of Kansas) suggested using something like http://www.weebly.com/, which is a free platform to create websites which can work like libguides.
Lisa Gardinier (University of Iowa) said that she believed this was beyond the scope of a Libguide and at the same time she was concerned about creating a link farm that ended up looking like Yahoo Directories from the 1990s (which is outdated for students). Lisa wanted to build a database in which students could search for sources. Guy and Buck Kachaluba felt that was too ambitious.
Rafeal Tarrago (University of Minnesota) suggested that one way around the question of what kind of resource would we built or how it would be built would be to propose the idea to H-LATAM or another organization and offer SALALM’s assistance; let them worry about the cost and design and let us identify the resources. Lynn Shirey (Harvard University) and Adán Griego (Stanford University) disagreed because this is an excellent opportunity for SALALM to gain visibility and to reach an audience beyond large ARL libraries with subject specialists. Adán said we should create something – a Facebook page with links, a blog, something on the SALALM website with newsletter – of use especially for small and medium-sized undergraduate institutions without Latin American Specialist Librarians. Rhonda Neugebauer (UC Riverside) added that this allows us to highlight SALALM as an organization and our expertise as librarians and scholars. Sarah Buck Kachaluba suggested that it would be nice to have a link to some kind of reference site from the SALALM Tab “Resources.” Melissa Guy added that it’s best to get something out there and use our expertise to point to resources rather than build something which will take a long time and delay the project. Lynn Shirey added that we didn’t need to do everything at this point – we could start with some of our own institutions’ primary-source repositories.
At Lynn Shirey’s suggestion we looked at WESS’s resource’s page (http://wessweb.info/index.php/Main_Page) to see if it would serve as a useful example for what we’d like to have on the SALALM Resources tab. The main page of WESS links to separate pages (portals) for different regional and linguistic areas, such as British Studies, Iberian Studies, etc.; Contemporary Europe, which lists Selected Newspapers and News Services, Key Facts & Figures About Europe, National Resource Centers (Title VI NRCs) for Foreign Language, Area & International Studies; [Online] Texts & Text Collections; Guides to Library Resources, which includes links to a page with links to European Library Catalogs, a link to “Historical Research in Europe, which goes to a portal to identify and link to relevant Archives, a link to Indexes and Guides to Western European Periodicals, and a link to WESS Members’ Subject Guides, which goes to a page with links by region and subject; and Book Reviews, which links to two portals for European book reviews. This is a complex network of webpages and links which are maintained by various WESS members. It would be challenging to keep something like this up, and, in fact, many of the links need to be updated. It is, nonetheless, a model worth investigating.
At the same time, we looked at the “Resources” tab of the SALALM website, which would seem to be the logical place to link to a search portal for “Online Research Resources.” Right now, no such subcategory under Resources exists; subcategories include Salalm Wikis (including wikis on Bibliographic Instruction and [Locating and Evaluating Latin American] AudioVisual material), Institutional Information (including Latin American Collection Statistics for SALALM institutions and a page with links to Latin American National Libraries by country), Cost Data on Latin American Collections (listing costs of Latin American & Caribbean monographs and periodical subscriptions by country), Webinars (linking to SALALM-organized and sponsored webinars), Special Collections Resources, with information on the History of the Book in Latin America and Special Collections focusing on Latin America, and Promotional ToolKit, which provides important information about SALALM such as its purpose, some of its achievements, and its conferences for potential members. Having a new link under “Resources” for an “Online Research Resources” tab makes sense and it could even incorporate the links from Latin American National Libraries and Latin American Special Collections.
David Block (University of Texas Austin) added that there were two strands to the original discussion on H-LATAM. One was the query as to whether or not such a portal already existed. The other was in response to the specificity of the Scholar’s question. We were not ever going to be able to put together a comprehensive resource but we could at least provide a beginning that would be useful to ourselves and other librarians doing reference work and providing research assistance. David suggested putting together a committee to identify the resources we are familiar with and create something. Others, including Dressing and Paula Covington (Vanderbilt University) agreed that we should do something to help students and scholars without librarians to assist them to find primary source materials. Paula imagined a scholar looking to find out where something is in an archive using this resource. Steve Kiczek (University of California San Diego) checked to confirm that we are talking about highlighting primary sources that have already been scanned and are available online. Philip McLeod (Emory University) added that he wanted to create a service/pointing to sources that would be used by scholars, not just librarians. He liked the idea of partnering with H-LATAM to find out what scholars wanted from the resource, and put our name out there but also drew upon the critical mass of scholars tapping into H-LATAM to define the resource and promote ourselves. Guy asked whether in thinking about going to H-LATAM we were taking one conversation, getting answers, and then developing a new conversation. Neuberger liked the idea of asking scholars on H-LATAM what they were interested in accessing through such a resource. Dressing pointed out that although we probably couldn’t create something comprehensive, it is often useful for students to be able to go somewhere and browse.
Shirey suggested that we focus for the time being on creating a portal/guide to digital primary source collections in SALALMista institutions. Guy, Reyes, Buck Kachaluba, and Covington all pointed out that in order to have the resources included organized and presented in a consistent way, it would be best to have 2-3 “editors” in charge of shaping and adding to the resource. At this suggestion, Shirey suggested the possibility of creating a sub-committee of approximately 3 people underneath the umbrella of the Reference and Instruction Committee to take on this project. She would talk to Anne Barnhart (University of West Georgia) and Meagan Lacy (Indian University –Perdue University Indianapolis) to find out if Reference and Instruction was amenable to this and then take it to the Town Meeting.
Dressing, Neugebauer, and Tarrago, were all present at the Round Table discussion and members of the Reference & Instruction committee were interested in sitting on this sub-committee.