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What does it mean to interact with librarians in Latin America and the Caribbean?

Well, let’s start from the beginning.

Interaction = mutual or reciprocal action or influence (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary).

Latin America and the Caribbean = beautiful places with white sand beaches where you can eat good spicy food while dancing to thundering rhythms.

Librarians in Latin America and the Caribbean = the happiest ones because they get the good weather and the great views (right?).

So, you can see already that interacting with librarians in Latin America and the Caribbean is really fun because they influence you into the richness of their culture. Talking about culture, the region has so many stories to be told related to the stages it has been through - from the ancient civilizations and their reverence to the sun to being mistaken as India by the Europeans to the Jesuit missions to convert its inhabitants to Catholicism, and centuries of political and social upheavals expressed in art, music and literature. The region has it all.

There are libraries, several of them, with librarians dedicated to preserve and make available the materials representing the core of the history of these countries. These librarians are also eager to share their experiences and learn about the new trends. For that purpose, they organize library events where they can get together in an environment that can offer them space to interact.

In 2013, for example, the OCLC Latin America and the Caribbean team attended library events in places such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, and had the pleasure of meeting with a considerable number of librarians. Here are the highlights of these encounters:



OCLC Mexico staff attended all major regional library events in the country in 2013 interacting with the attendees to discuss about OCLC membership and what we have developed so far for the library community, while learning more about what these libraries have been facing in order to provide good service to their communities.

The Mexican libraries, mainly the public libraries, are seeking good tools for training their staff in order to serve users that are more demanding each day. On the other hand, the academic libraries are dealing with their collection development issues to attend the needs of students and researchers in a globalized scenario.

Mexico has its cultural curiosities such as the one my colleague Humberto Abed could experience while attending the Annual Public Libraries Meeting in Chiapas. During the event, the Chamula kids were selling their handcrafts to the librarians. According to Humberto, the Chamulas is a local tribe with a strong attachment to their customs and beliefs; one such belief is that their soul is stolen away when their picture is taken. Humberto, attempting to capture images of the event, was only able to get some pictures after befriending the Chamulas. Although they had agreed with their photo being taken, they blocked the smaller child from the camera out of worry that his soul would be easily stolen due to the fact he was too young.

South America


We were present in events in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Ecuador.

The protesters that took the streets of many Brazilian cities during the year didn’t prevent the librarians from attending the library meetings. The folkloric dancing of the south part of the country amused the attendees of the Brazilian Congress of Librarianship, Documentation and Information Science (CBBD) in Florianopolis where we presented on topics such as linked data , WorldCat syndication, and shared data . We could interact with librarians from north to south of the country and learn about the changes their libraries are going through.

The events in Rio de Janeiro attracted librarians from several parts of Brazil and from countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Uruguay, including the presence of the Latin American national libraries. The crescent internet usage in Brazil has challenged the local libraries to provide easily accessible content to their end users. Mexico and Brazil, for example, have the highest number of users in Latin America and the Caribbean accessing  pages in search of information.

The cold winds that swept on the Argentinean coastal town of Mar del Plata didn’t stop the librarians from going to the 5th JOBAM (Libraries, Archives and Museums Meeting). The coffee breaks were great for warming up by drinking café con leche (lattes) and eating medialunas (a typical Argentinean pastry) while chatting about the issues affecting the libraries in Argentina and where they plan to improve as information providers. The economic crisis the country is going through has stricken the libraries and limited their action. Even though, they have to continue finding ways of following the technology trends to not isolate themselves from the users they serve.

Chileans had 2013 as presidential election year and for discussions towards education - an area where libraries play an essential role. The Chilean Library Association, for example, held a seminar on the role of the library as the social agent of reading development.

Central America


We attended library events in Costa Rica and Panama.

Librarians from 8 countries attended the International Congress of Academic Libraries in Panama. The meeting gathered these librarians to discuss about the importance of using the current technologies to promote the libraries resources. We were there interacting with these professionals.

We also had the opportunity of attending the 3rd BIREDIAL (International Conference in Open Access, Digital Preservation and Scientific Data) in Costa Rica where we presented on CONTENTdm , OCLC solution for building and managing digital collections and digital repositories. Costa Rica was also the site for the Laureate Group Best Practices Meeting.

During these events we were able to identify the local realization of the need of investing more in libraries as the source of relevant information and for the social role libraries play on digital inclusion.



We attended the main library events in the Caribbean region.

Libraries in the Caribbean are being challenged to increase their electronic and digital resources while providing easy and fast access to these materials to their end users. These meetings were focused on discussing the best practices and the need of staff training on the new trends and tools.

During ACURIL (Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institutional Libraries) meeting in Puerto Rico, the library director of University of Aruba (on the picture above) delivered a presentation on the experiences her library had when implementing and going live with WorldShare Management Services .

Our colleague Edwar Delgado attended these events in the Caribbean and could meet professionals who make great efforts with very limited resources to provide outstanding library services for their patrons. He could also experience interesting customs like praying before meetings in Jamaica, or eating from a roasted pig in Puerto Rico.

In Conclusion

Nowadays, technology allows the interaction to surpass the physical space thus permitting for a larger group to be part of the process regardless of their location. Moreover, the interaction can also occur virtually without losing its importance but being expressed in another format.

Interacting with Latin American and Caribbean librarians, in the physical or virtual spaces, means to have the opportunity to understand the reality they face, their priorities, and their need to modernize the workflows while preserving their local identity. Paraphrasing my colleague Daniel Boivin, these events give us a chance to keep on learning more about the accomplishments and challenges of these libraries in the region and identifying how the OCLC cooperative can continue adapting to serve them as they move forward.

Home of the Books

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If you were asked where the home of the books in print should be, you would probably think of traditional places such as libraries or bookstores. The Directing of Libraries, Archives and Museums (DIBAM) staff in Chile thinks differently, however. They believe that the home of the books in print should also be where people can socialize more: the streets (precisely on the feria libre - a type of farmers market). Ferias libres in Latin American countries are more than a place to buy fresh produce from local farmers but somewhere people from all sorts of background and walks of life gather to discuss from politics to sports and new trends, or simply gossip. It has been a neutral meeting point for so many years that it has become part of the culture, almost like a ritual. The place is a natural environment for building personal and cultural identity, thus allowing for the idea of books bringing more colors to the already colorful fruit and vegetable stands.


The Casero del Libro project created by DIBAM, navigates through this idea of extending the library presence to this natural environment where the local community has available at its disposal a variety of books to be easily borrowed without even setting foot in a physical library. The library has identified that this idea goes together with its strategic lines of reaching users in new spaces and impacting non-typical library users. Bringing the library to the feria libre is a way of distancing the concept of reading being something for the elite but a cultural activity accessible to everybody. DIBAM uses the public libraries in the country to deliver this project.

The specific goal of the Casero del Libro project by Biblioteca de Santiago, for example, is to set up the library stand in a traditional place where fresh produce is sold (ferias libres), in Santiago downtown, near to where the physical library is located.




The collection available to the public is comprised of 14,500 items, the same used in another project called Bibliobus (something like a library in a bus). The target audience is the nearby communities, reaching also immigrants from Peru and Colombia. The idea is to foster the inclusion of patrons who otherwise wouldn’t make use of the free resources this public library offers to the community.


Finding ways of taking the print collections to the users rather than waiting for people to enter the library building not only reinforce the social role of a public library but emphasizes the importance of promoting the meaning and purpose of the existence of public libraries in first place. Assuming that everybody, everywhere in the world has access to knowledge virtually is a narrow view of the reality of many developing countries. In some locations, some people are digitally excluded due to their living situation and conditions or lack of awareness that a public library can provide computer and internet access. Others are faced with even harder reality where the public library option is either inexistent or difficult to reach due to many factors such as large distance. The free print resources a public library holds can be put to use though - it can travel from the shelves to the hands of those who will appreciate the opportunity of this shareable knowledge coming to where they are.


Congratulations DIBAM for this initiative!

More Peruvian content in WorldCat

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When looking at the shining round building on the picture above you might imagine that this is a type of ad for the library of the future. In fact, you are looking at the new installations for Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas Library System (UPC) , one of our members in Lima- Peru and the first to join OCLC in the country. UPC Library System is modern and cutting-edge not only with its building; the library was the first in Peru to offer self check-out to its patrons and the first in the country to offer Kindle and iPad loan for its electronic resources.


                                                           self check-out at UPC

UPC Library System is always involved in bringing visibility to the projects its staff is dedicated to. One example is the institutional repository project  the library has finished recently, and which is being added to the WorldCat database. The project includes journal articles, research reports, chapter of books, and theses. The highlights of the project are the 1130 undergraduate and the 406 graduate theses related mostly to architecture and engineering (of course!). 

These materials are adding value to the list of Latin American theses in WorldCat such as Cybertesis , a repository of theses from Chilean and Peruvian universities with topics ranging from health to the humanities.  


CLADEA Conference in Brazil

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Rio de Janeiro is the site for the 48th CLADEA Conference (The Latin American Council of Business Schools) which is taking place on October 20-23. Hosted by Fundação Getulio Vargas - EBAPE, the conference will gather business executives, government officials, and eminent scholars from several countries to discuss the opportunities for Latin America in the current global context and how the businesses and the education institutions can take advantage of these trends by working together.

During the Cladea Conference is happening the 10th Directors Group Meeting  which will bring together library and information center directors from Business Schools members of Cladea. The theme for this year meeting is “One decade managing knowledge and information in the Business Schools part of Cladea.”These librarians will meet on October 20-23 with activities related to the compliance and exhibition of joint projects established in the Group work plan for the period of 2012-2013 as well as presentations by scholars from Fundação Getúlio Vargas-EBAPE and Latin American library professionals.

OCLC is attending the Directors Group Meeting in order to learn more from this group of librarians and be part of the discussions. The meetings are scheduled to take place in the Fundação Getúlio Vargas premises, at Pontificia Universidade Catolica Rio de Janeiro Library System, and the newly renovated Casa Daros . The latter is a beautiful museum displaying Latin American art.

Conferencia CLADEA en Brasil
Río de Janeiro es el sitio de la
XLVIII CLADEA (Consejo Latinoamericano de Escuelas de Administración) que está teniendo lugar en 20 al 23 de octubre. Organizado por la Fundação Getulio Vargas - EBAPE , la conferencia reunirá los ejecutivos de las empresas, los funcionarios del gobierno, y eminentes especialistas de varios países para discutir las posibilidades de América Latina en el contexto mundial actual y cómo las empresas y las instituciones de enseñanza puede tomar ventaja de estas tendencias, trabajando juntas.

Durante la Conferencia Cladea está sucediendo la X Reunión de Agrupación de Directores  que congregará a los directores de bibliotecas y centros de información de las escuelas de administración miembros de Cladea. El tema de este año es "Una década gestionando el conocimiento y la información en las Escuelas de Administración Cladea”. Estos bibliotecarios se reunirán entre 20 y 23 de octubre con actividades relacionadas con el cumplimiento y la exposición de proyectos conjuntos establecidos en el plan de trabajo del Grupo para el período de 2012-2013, así como con presentaciones de especialistas de la Fundação Getúlio Vargas-EBAPE y profesionales de la información en América Latina.

OCLC va participar de la Reunión de Agrupación de Directores para aprender más acerca de este grupo de bibliotecarios y formar parte de las deliberaciones. Las reuniones se llevarán a cabo en la Fundación Getúlio Vargas, en la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Río de Janeiro , así como en la renovada Casa Daros . Este último es un hermoso museo que muestra arte latinoamericana.


Conferência CLADEA no Brasil
Rio de Janeiro é o local para o
XLVIII CLADEA (o Conselho Latino-americano de Escolas de Administração) que acontece de 20 a 23 de outubro . Organizada pela Fundação Getulio Vargas - EBAPE , a conferência reunirá executivos de negócios, funcionários do governo, e eminentes estudiosos de vários países para discutir as oportunidades para a América Latina no contexto global atual e como as empresas e as instituições de ensino podem aproveitar essas tendências, trabalhando juntas.

Durante o Cladea Conferência está acontecendo a X Reunião do Grupo de Diretores que reunirá diretores de bibliotecas e centros de informação de escolas de administração membros do Cladea. O tema da reunião deste ano é "Uma década gestionando o conhecimento e a informação nas escolas de administração Cladea”. Estes bibliotecários irão se reunir de 20 a 23 outubro com atividades relacionadas com a conformidade e exposição de projetos comuns estabelecidos no plano de trabalho do Grupo para o período de 2012-2013, bem como apresentações pelos acadêmicos da Fundação Getúlio Vargas - EBAPE e profissionais da informação na América Latina.

A OCLC está participando da Reunião do Grupo de Diretores, a fim de aprender mais sobre este grupo de bibliotecários e fazer parte das discussões. As reuniões estão agendadas para ocorrer nas instalações da Fundação Getúlio Vargas, na Divisão de Bibliotecas e Documentação da Pontificia Universidade Catolica Rio de Janeiro , e na recém-renovada Casa Daros . Este último é um belo museu exibindo arte da América Latina.

About the Author

Lucia Shelton

I work in the Latin America and the Caribbean Division at OCLC. I speak Portuguese and Spanish which allows me to communicate with the librarians in the region and share here the news for and about these libraries.             Twitter: @shelton_lucia...

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Library Events

November 27-29 - Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

IX Encontro Internacional de Catalogadores- II ENACAT

Event detail

January 13-17- 2014- Trujillo (Peru)

3º Congreso Internacional de Bibliotecas Universitarias

Event detail