Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Public libraries in Mexico, an impression

The impression I have, from the conference and from visiting a few of these libraries is that there is a lot of work to do!

The system for adquisition is centralized; all handled from Mexico City through Conaculta. So, the people in Ciudad Juárez on the U.S./Mexico border get the same materials as the people in Oaxaca or those in Mérida, Yucatán...

The process for getting a library card seems difficult to me although the Mexican librarians don't find it so. You have to take 2 fotos and a fiador! Like, a co-signer! I forget what else...

The biggest problem would be that the people staffing the libraries depend on whoever is running city hall at the time. So when the mayor or presidente municipal goes, everyone goes y a empezar de nuevo! How hard would it be to implement a civil service??!!

Oh! And, of course, technology! They are still using card catalogs on paper instead of online. Those libraries that were lucky enough to have Gates computers were way ahead of the game

en Zacatecas

Pues, llegó el amante chido, so ya no hubo tiempo para estar sentado frente a la pantalla, but no más por no dejar -

Zacatecas treated us well! They have a tradition called 'callejoneadas' and the librarians met as a group the Wednesday night before my presentation to partake. We met in the Alameda at 8 p.m. and were given a small jarrito on a ribbon to hang around our necks. 2 or 3 young ladies had jugs of mezcal que convidaron whenever the mood struck. Ouch! I thought - no one is showing up for my ponencia in the a.m., todos van a estar crudos! We followed the brass band around town for a while and ended up at a sound and light show that used an old Augustine convent for backdrop, very cool.

The ponencia went well, started out with about 20 in attendance and ended with a full house. There were 3 of us on the panel - a woman from Colima presented about a project she implemented at her university - biblioburro. Basically, they did a reading promo campaign centered on the school mascot - a donkey. Tristemente, when the donkey died - from an African bee sting! - the project died with him.

Oralia Garza de Cortés presented about Día de los niños/día de los libros. She covered the trajectory of services to Latino children over the last half century in the U.S., especially this project.

Mine went well, some interesting discussion about respecting people's reading preferences and encouraging readers to challenge themselves. The cool thing was that this librarian guy from San Diego came who is very active in international exchanges and projects between Mexico and U.S. He introduced me to the director at the Benjamin Franklin library in Mexico City! So, conectados! A ver qué pasa...

Monday, May 3, 2010

1st day of conference

¡Clásico! A meeting of Mexican librarians and chaos at the registration table. The one thing that should flow, uf... Well, got registered and my blue wrist band, qué tal? We have to wear this the whole time; le comenté - así puedo tomar bebidas alcohólicas también, verdad?

The opening session was typical, thank everybody and their mamá; asking for donations to remodel their office. For 2,000 pesos, you get a faux brick with your name on it displayed for at least 10 years. Muy formal, awful sound system, not enough room between the rows, qué fijada!

The Palacio de convenciones is way out on the edge of town. Had to take a long walk and then a short bus ride and another long walk but found it sin problemas. Buen ejercicio que tanta falta me hace.

Have met some interesting people already, most here work at academic libraries or are students. They are exhibits, too. I was chatting with a woman who is pushing some scientific database. Turns out she's from New York; we figured out we both speak English, ha! She had a Portuguese accent, so ahí la confusión mía. Oh! A nice contact, the librarian from Cancún's Universidad Caribe, qué invite... digo...

The first panel I attended had some very interesting presentations. Here are the datos - Mexican libraries after the revolution were modelled on U.S. libraries since many of the revolutionary leaders were norteños - Alvaro Obregón, etc. "fundar una biblioteca en un pueblo tiene tanta significación como levantar una iglesia... un lugar para descansar y recogerse" My feelings on hearing/reading this - ¿y ahora? Public libraries in Mexico are in a sad state.

The next presenter has done research on Zacatecan migrants and information services. She has put together a web page that looks really good and helpful. I wasn't very convinced about the representative sample she used - 70% legal... ok... all with some education, etc. I met her and told her that I'm on the other end and would love to link to her site. It's not live yet, but will keep in touch.

Finally, a talk about measuring success in libraries. This seemed to provoke a lot of questions. Again, mainly talking about academic libraries. My feeling - hello! You have to constantly measure your relevance to your target population. Anygüey, as Chávez-Silverman says... The guy quoted Marx - el problema es el método - and Ranganathan - las bibliotecas son para usarse - so he's got to be ok.

Also, what god-awful Powerpoints!!! I know how to read, people!! But, bought a T-shirt from cuerito de la UNAM...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

on the road to Zacatecas

Somebody suggesting blogging about my trip to Zacatecas to present at the Mexican Library Association conference, hmm! What a concept! Qué ocurrencia! A ver...

I decided to try Transportes Zavala to get me here; in February took the Grey dog and was not impressed. Needless to say, está pobre la patria - ya no hay $$ for air fare. Transportes Zavala picked me up in the Plaza Santa Cecilia parking lot. We didn't leave exactly at 11 a.m., but pretty close after loading everyone's stuff below... and it barely fit! I thought I saw a 19" flat screen tv...

It was a pretty comfortable bus, we picked up more people in OKC and again in Dallas. After that, it was straight for the border. I gained a large seat mate. An 80 year old slow moving woman, but she was game for all that! We hit the border in the middle of the night; the bus driver's helper asked everyone to pitch in $10 as a small incentive for the agents to overlook making us take everything off the bus to go through customs. Everyone ponied up, even me, who only took 2 little bags {travel light!}. Pues, we got there and the fiscal - a hard woman, according to the helper, was not taking any bribes. Too bad! Everybody and all their stuff off the bus. Hooray for the woman! The helper gave everybody their 10 bucks back... and we were held up for an hour or more, but justice worked - the people trying to get all that stuff across had to pay some hefty taxes on it, jiji!

By the time we got to our destination, we were all pals. My seat mate was trying to hook me up with one of the single men across the aisle, jajaja! No, thanx, I told her - been there, done that! One of the men on the bus did come up and say he thought he knew me. Turns out his kids go to Disney and they use the library.

Checked in to pretty nice hotel, thanx to my friend Antonio Gaytan - Elaine's ex who is from near Zacatecas. His hook-up got me a decent price for a Western Inn placed located right in the Centro Historico with this free Internet in the lobby, yay!

They are having some kind of BMX biking event in the main plaza. They have set up ramps for the kids to bike up and down, doing fancy moves uptop- spins, no-hands, etc. It seems like I see a lot of my customers here -their faces- Noe, Rey, German, Jose Luis. All guys participating, except one stubborn little girl with braids on a tricycle who insists on getting in harms way, right in the middle of the action - you go, girl! She is the only one wearing a helmet, jajaja!