Interview with SALALM Scholarship Awardee: Hanni Nabahe

How did you find out about the SALALM Scholarship?
I first heard about SALALM from Alda Allina Migoni, who had been a recipient of the scholarship. She encouraged me and gave me tips on the process.

Did you know about SALALM before you applied for the scholarship?
I had heard that another Knowledge River Scholar, George Apodaca, was involved in SALALM, which prompted me to look it up. But it was talking to Alda that really excited me about attending. The idea of spending time with other information professionals focused on Latin America was a huge draw.

Where did you earn your MLS/MLIS, what was your area of specialization, and when did you graduate?
I earned my MLIS in 2016 at the University of Arizona School of Information focused on Archives Studies and Digital Information Management.

What drew you to the field of librarianship/archival studies?
I had worked as a paraprofessional with my local public library for about 6 years when I decided to pursue an MLIS. At first I expected to remain a public librarian, but after having the chance to work as graduate assistant with Special Collections at the University of Arizona, I fell in love with archival studies. Aside from making it one of my concentrations (along with digital information management), I remained deeply involved in the field through a summer internship at UC San Diego, as SAA/Mosaic Fellow, and later when I obtained provisional certification from the ACA.

Do you have other graduate level degrees?
Inspired by an Association of Research Libraries leadership symposium, where participants from underrepresented backgrounds were encouraged to seek positions of management within libraries, I decided to pursue a full-time MBA program at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. I am currently completing my last semester and can’t wait to join an academic institution as librarian or archivist.

How did you become interested in Latin America/Iberia? Describe your language abilities and experiences studying and/or traveling in Latin America.
I was born and raised in Southern Mexico (Veracruz), immigrating to the U.S. near the end of high school. As a native Spanish speaker, it was easy (and the fulfillment of a life goal) to take on Portuguese during my undergrad studies, when I lived in housing designed to immerse students in their chosen foreign language. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Chile and most recently to Ecuador, where I served as interpreter for a team bringing basic medical services to the indigenous people of the Amazonian region.

Have you worked with a Latin American/Iberian archival or library collection? In what capacity?
No, I have not had the chance yet, but would jump at the opportunity to do so!

When and where did you attend the annual SALALM conference?
I attended SALALM in May 2016, traveling to the University of Virginia while the rest of my cohort took part in our MLIS graduation ceremonies. I instantly felt at home at SALALM and have remained thankful for the chance to spend that week learning from such outstanding SALALMistas.

What was the most interesting or unexpected thing that you learned at the conference?
My favorite part was hearing Spanish, Portuguese, and English spoken equally throughout! I have never felt such sense of belonging as I did that week! I particularly appreciated the theme of “Nuestro Norte es el Sur” and the emphasis on learning from the work being performed by visiting librarians from Latin America. As the conference wrapped up, I knew I had found my people.

Did you attend any committee meetings?
Yes, I attended meetings in Finance, Constitution and Bylaws, and for Marginalized Peoples and Ideas, all areas I hope to become more involved with in the future.

Are you currently working? Where, and in what job?
Aside from attending business school full-time, I continue working as substitute librarian for my local public library system. The branch where I am based, one of the most diverse in the county, counts with a robust collection of Spanish materials for all ages and I cherish the opportunity to serve our Latinx and indigenous populations every week.

Was SALALM helpful in the development of you career? In what way?
It continues to shape my career aspirations, as I follow the paths other members are taking, and continue to be inspired by the work accomplished by the organization. SALALM both inspires and reassures me that I am in the right field.

Interview with SALALM Scholarship Awardee: Lara Aase

When and where did you attend the annual SALALM conference?

Lara Aase with Xelena Gonzalez

The scholarship (thanks, SALALM!) covered my Charlottesville conference attendance in 2016, and my second conference was last year in Ann Arbor.

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

At Charlottesville, I was thrilled to meet a group of like-minded colleagues who were both professionally driven and simpaticxs (not an easy combination to find in academic circles!). At Ann Arbor, even people I hadn’t met before seemed like family.

How did you find out about the SALALM Scholarship?

At the beginning of my MLIS, I hunted down a professor with a great reputation as a mentor for prospective academic librarians and asked if she’d take me on. Her very first piece of advice was to join SALALM. Eventually I gathered my courage and the (minimal, student-rate) membership fee and joined, applying for the scholarship shortly after that.

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

I graduated from the iSchool at the University of Washington in 2016. The program didn’t have separate specialization tracks, but I knew early on that I wanted to focus on rare books and special collections. UW is strong in theory, research, and technology training, so I was lucky to be able to enhance my old-school rare book knowledge with new ideas about web access, user experience, and digital humanities.

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

When I was in high school, I took a career inventory test that told me to be a librarian, but I didn’t listen until I’d been through two graduate programs in other fields and years of work as a freelance musician.

Despite having seven separate student jobs in university libraries, all along I thought I wanted to be a professor, because that’s what you do with a PhD. I started my doctoral program in Spanish Literature to work with paleography and old books, but somehow it didn’t occur to me until I was ABD that I was still hanging out in school because I liked libraries.

It took me another decade of library associate and technician jobs before I was ready to bite the bullet and get the MLIS. And then I discovered that I love finding information, organizing it, and getting it into the hands of people who need it. I used to think librarianship would be just a practical career choice, but now I’m continuously rediscovering that it’s a fascinating discipline.

How did you become interested in Latin America/Iberia?

My first non-English languages were French in high school and Italian in undergrad, and when I needed to add another language for my MA in Comp Lit I learned Spanish. One of my first courses was in medieval Spanish literature, which got me interested in paleography, which led to a job at the Spanish Colonial Research Center at UNM and later at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto. Between graduate programs I lived in Costa Rica for a year. But I didn’t get past my “high affective filter” until I worked at a public library in Illinois doing Spanish-language programming.

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

My job at the Spanish Colonial Research Center involved indexing personal names, place names, and other subjects from 16th- and 17th-century New Mexican documents. At the University of Toronto I did Romance-language cataloging, mostly with Spanish materials, and at the Fisher Rare Book Library I dealt with acquisitions and descriptions of early published books in Portuguese as well as Spanish “hojas sueltas.” In Illinois I was the selector for Spanish and Latin American publications.

What is your current position?

I’m the solo librarian at the Center of Southwest Studies special collections library at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.

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

Yes, both theoretically and practically. SALALM gave me something my MLIS program couldn’t: connection to academic librarians and library workers who speak a language other than English, who are concerned with library users not best served by mainstream collections, who have a vision beyond the U.S. SALALM is also an excellent network for hearing about job possibilities.

Photo: Lara Aase (left) with Xelena Gonzalez at ALA Midwinter, 2018

Interview with SALALM Scholarship Awardee: Amanda Moreno

When and where did you attend the annual SALALM conference?

My first SALALM Conference was in Charlottesville in 2016. I then attended Ann Arbor in 2017 and plan on seeing everyone in Ciudad de México next year!

How did you find out about the SALALM Scholarship?

Angela Carreño, my library school mentor, suggested I apply for the SALALM Scholarship in 2016.

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

I received a dual masters in Library and Information Science from Long Island University and Latin American and Caribbean Studies from New York University in 2016. My master’s thesis for my area studies specialty was on race and national belonging in Dominican Republic, and how tensions in this area play out at the Museo del Hombre Dominicano in Santo Domingo.

What  drew you to the field of librarianship?

I started working in libraries during my senior year of undergrad, when I was hired as a student assistant at the University of Miami Libraries Cuban Heritage Collection. I went from digitizing theater ephemera as a student to processing archival collections as a full-time Archives Assistant. After a few years in that position, I decided to go to grad school and I came back to CHC as the Archivist in January 2017. I was drawn to the ability to connect people with their history through the preservation of Cuban culture in the diaspora.

How did you become interested in Latin America? 

My family is Cuban-American, so while Cuba has always been close to my heart, working at CHC gave me a better understanding and more nuanced perspective on the Cuban exile experience.

While completing my master’s thesis, I conducted field research in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

What experience do you have working with Latin American/Iberian archival or library collections? 

I have worked at the Cuban Heritage Collection as a student assistant, Archives Assistant and most recently as Archivist of the Collection. While at NYU, I was the Collection Development Assistant for Latin American Collections, working with Angela Carreño to grow the Latin American collections at Bobst Library and assisting with reference and instruction for undergraduate and graduate programs in the humanities.

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

Being able to meet my future colleagues before completing my graduate program was an amazing experience. Everyone was so welcoming and easy to talk to. SALALM is an incubator for collaboration, and I look forward to working with other institutions in my capacity as Archivist of the Cuban Heritage Collection.

What is your current position?

I am the Archivist for the Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami Libraries.

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

SALALM was immensely helpful in developing me as a new Latin Americanist. I got to meet colleagues from other institutions that have inspired me to work on joint projects and think about developing new programs at CHC.

My First SALALM Conference

Attending the SALALM conference at Princeton exposed me to current issues facing Latin American librarianship and connected me with a large network of professionals from around the globe. While there, I maintained a busy schedule beginning with the opening session where Lilia Moritz Schwarcz delivered her keynote address. During the rest of my time, I attended two receptions, the book exhibit, a town hall meeting, a rare book and manuscript demonstration at Firestone library, and various panels, which constituted the nuts and bolts of the conference.

Princeton1The panels highlighted several issues, including digital resource access and collaboration, collection development trends, and new research. At one panel, presenters shared current programs aimed at the digitization of primary sources. The British Library, the Oliveira Lima Library, and Brown University all maximize their efforts by collaborating with national and international partners, and by using innovative techniques, like crowdsourcing to provide descriptive metadata. Debra McKern, from the Library of Congress, Rio de Janeiro Office, explicated their methods in acquiring ephemera from Brazil’s popular groups, such as recent World Cup protest flyers. In another panel, Peter Altekrüger explained how the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut manages to maintain their duplicate exchange program with over 500 partners!

In a presentation featuring scholars’ perspectives, Stanley J. Stein recounted his first research trip to Brazil and his methodology as he worked with ex-slave informants in the coffee-growing region of Vassouras. At one of the final panels, Ricarda Musser detailed the wealth of information found in German immigration guides to Brazil, and how she is uncovering new research avenues for scholars, while Daniel Schoorl presented literature on Arab ethnicity in Brazil, highlighting key sources, such as early twentieth-century Arabic newspapers.

Princeton3During my spare time, I connected with fellow attendees. I lunched with other library science students at Tico’s Juice Bar in downtown Princeton where we discussed our favorite panels and shared our professional endeavors. On another occasion, I savored a cool beverage at Small World Coffee alongside current SALALM librarians who traded stories about their job experiences, past and present. And as a first-time visitor, I enjoyed exploring or, rather, getting lost on Princeton’s beautiful campus. Princeton’s reception at the Prospect House, once home to President Woodrow Wilson, featured delicious food and beverage offerings. Along with a friend, I explored the house’s numerous rooms and countless portraits. The Libreros’ Reception the following evening took place in a grand hall where the music, dancing, and new friends made for a memorable experience.

I sincerely thank SALALM for the opportunity to attend this year’s conference. I would also like to send a special thank you to Paula Covington, who encouraged my scholarship application and who continues to serve as a dedicated mentor. A warm thank you also goes to Ruby Gutierrez and AJ Johnson, who imparted some great conference tips and advice! I look forward to continuing my pursuit of academic librarianship with a focus on Latin America, continuing my growth as a scholar of library studies, and taking part in future SALALM activities.

Ashley Larson
University of California, Los Angeles