...una biblioteca es un gabinete mágico en el cual hay muchos espíritus hechizados. Despiertan cuando los llamamos; mientras no abrimos un libro, ese libro, literalmente, es un volumen, es una cosa entre las cosas.      - Emerson

Public Libraries Using Spanish


SOL 14   April 4 , 2000
SOL 14 Contents:


1. Card registration policies in Commerce, CA (Reply to question in SOL 13)

3. Meet Cesar Alvarado, Caracas Public Library
2. Another reply to the same question



1. Card Policies & 'Double' Surnames


Subject: Hispanic surnames
From: Marie Kaneko,


Here at Commerce we use the traditional formula so that the father's surname comes up as the regular surname. So Carlos Garcia Mendez will come up as Garcia Mendez, Carlos and not as Mendez, Carlos G.  Are your library card applications bilingual? We put English on one side and Spanish on the other. Also, we don't allow P.O. Boxes, we need a street address. We let homeless folks register if they are staying at a shelter and don't have ID with a regular address. We developed a postcard (also bilingual) that they can fill out. We mail it to them and when they get it, they bring it in and then they can register. Using date of birth and driver's license or state ID is helpful--we do not require Social Security numbers.


Marie Kaneko


2. Flaco Jensen Berkey Weighs In On 'Last' Names


Many libraries struggle with the question Margaret raised. Good bilingual forms help; see the sample & explanatory notes at

 Still, even with a good form there is bound to be confusion.   And Spanish-speakers probably are not the only linguistic minority in your community who handle family names differently—in some Asian countries, for example, the family name comes before the given name.  So what does 'Last Name' mean?

 This is where a couple minutes of focused staff training might make a big difference.  Margaret's concern, that one person will enter a record in such a way that the next person won't find it, might be minimized if the staff is encouraged to understand and agree upon consistent practices for eliciting and entering your patrons' names.


3. Meet Cesar Alvarado, Venezuelan Librarian


[Note:  Translation follows]

 From: César Gregorio Alvarado

Hola Amigos de SOL:

Soy Bibliotecario de la Biblioteca Pública Metropolitana "Simón Rodríguez" de Caracas, Venezuela. Trabajo en la Sala de Ciencia y Tecnología en el Servicio de Cabinas de Acceso Público a Internet y pienso iniciar un MLIS en McGill, Montreal este Septiembre. Mi trabajo se refiere casi a toda la población de la Ciudad de Caracas (app 5.000.000 Habs) pues somos la principal Biblioteca Pública de la Ciudad y creo, del país. Trabajamos basicamente con estudiantes universitarios y de bachillerato (College & High School) y escasamente atendemos otro tipo de usuarios. En nuestro país el índice de analfabetismo funcional es enorme, aproximadamente un 60 o 70% lo que desespera a cualquiera que trabaje en una Biblioteca Pública. Nuestro trabajo llega a veces a tener que enseñar a leer a estudiantes universitarios que son incapaces de entender lo que dice un libro, sin ponernos en el caso de evaluar la veracidad y/o calidad de los libros que sirven de texto en los institutos, que no siempre adquirimos pero que siempre nos solicitan.


A raíz de este MLIS que pienso hacer me gustaría participar en este foro para aprender y contribuir a las discusiones que se puedan presentar.

Me disculpan lo largo del mensaje, siempre a sus órdenes,



Hello, friends.

I’m a librarian in the Simón Rodríguez Metropolitan Public Library in Caracas, Venezuela.  I work in the Science & Technology room at the public Internet access area, and I’m thinking of entering the MLIS program at McGill University in Montreal this September. 

 We’re the main public library in the city of Caracas so my work potentially touches everyone in this city of about five million people, but we primarily work with secondary & post-secondary school students and rarely with other kinds of patrons.  Venezuela’s rate of functional illiteracy is extremely high, around 60-70%, which can be discouraging for anyone who works in a public library.  Our work sometimes even involves teaching reading to university students who can scarcely understand what’s written in their books—without judging the  reliability and/or quality of those texts, which we don’t always acquire but which the students always ask us for.

Along with this MLIS that I’m considering,  I’d like to take part in this forum in order to learn from and contribute to the discussions that will arise here on SOL.

 Pardon this long message!  Always at your service,



Cesar G. Alvarado López
Lic. En Biología
Caracas Metropolitan Library "Simón Rodríguez"
Science and Technology Branch
Servicio de Cabinas de Acceso Público a Internet (SCAI)
Internet Public Access Service
Av. Universidad. Bolsa a San Francisco
Caracas, Venezuela. 1010

Bruce Jensen

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