...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 74   May 8, 2002
SOL 74 Contents:


1. ¡Cholulismo! Flaco stalks Saramago...

6. More great ideas from Ana Álvarez
2. ...and Paco Ignacio Taibo II... 7. Pew Hispanic Center
3. ...and Oralia Garza de Cortés! 8. Fox phones Fidel
4. LSTA success stories 9. Biblioteca Latinoamericana
5. New REFORMA listserv in the NW 10. NBC, GOP go bilingual

1. Two illustrious writers and an extraordinary librarian

Flaco is still overwhelmed, still star-struck after seeing his two favorite living authors and one of our most marvelous bibliotecarias all in the space of a few days last week.  It started with the visit of 1998 Nobel laureate José Saramago,   hosted by the UCLA Department of Spanish & Portuguese.

Saramago, thinking I'd so much rather be home in the Canary Islands writing another classic novel, than scrawling your name on the flyleaf of this book

Your humble correspondent listened agog as the masterful novelist read choice bits from four of his works,  including the most recent La caverna, a mightily incisive and darkly comic story of simple folks like you and me who get swallowed up into a shopping mall.  That one's available in Spanish (translated superbly from the original Portuguese by his wife, just imagine), and if you want to read up on the guy before filling up a few book order forms with his name, go ahead: BOMB Magazine recently ran a very hip profile of Saramago, and of course you can read his Nobel lecture, "How Characters Became the Masters and the Author Their Apprentice," along with the short autobiography he wrote for the Nobel Foundation.  It begins, "I was born in a family of landless peasants, in Azinhaga, a small village in the province of Ribatejo..."   Saramago, you see, learned to be a writer not at any university but at the town library.  As he tells it,  I worked for two years as a mechanic at a car repair shop. By that time I had already started to frequent, in its evening opening hours, a public library in Lisbon. And it was there, with no help or guidance except curiosity and the will to learn, that my taste for reading developed and was refined.

The author of Blindness and All the Names has taken a high-profile interest in the Mayan uprising in Mexico.  His essay "Todos somos Chiapas," is on line at, and a piece Saramago wrote after meeting Subcomandante Marcos is part of last year's Zapatista Reader published by Nation Books.

The editor of that fine book, a fellow by the name of Tom Hayden (yes, that Tom Hayden: father of Jane Fonda's children and of the SDS; member of the Chicago Seven, and more recently of the California legislature) convened a discussion a couple days later among some contributors to The Zapatista Reader , and that's where Flaco's other literary hero came into the picture. 

From left: Salvador Carrasco, Tom Hayden, Saul Landau, and Paco Ignacio Taibo II at theTrack 16 Gallery in Santa Monica.

Paco Ignacio Taibo II is the  prolific (more than 50 published books; he's neck and neck with his dad on that score) radical, adorable, chainsmoking, Coke-guzzling, elfin...well, how would a bookish bartender mix the potent cocktail that is PIT II?  Start with a stein of Steinbeck's sense of social justice, add a dash of Dashiell Hammett's feel for the hard-boiled detective  genre, add a carafe of Carey McWilliams' crusading historical rigor, dump in about eight gallons of Coca-Cola, and shake vigorously.   Of the 15-odd Taibo titles that've been published in English, most are crime novels in which the scariest criminals are the respectable types way above suspicion.   The LA Weekly's profile is aptly titled: "¿Por Qué? The works of Paco Ignacio Taibo II offer a one-man walking tour of Mexican history." 

He's a primary exponent of the novela negra, the kind of crime novel that focuses more on the sociological mystery of corrupt institutions than on carefully planted clues and whodunit cleverness.  Paco is the mastermind of the annual Semana Negra in Spain, "crime fiction's biggest bash" where in 1994 a world record was set for the longest single-file line of books (1.02 miles), all donations from SN participants for readers in Cuba.  The the best PIT II website is in Spanish and Italian, at

The other Zapatista Reader panelists were no slouches, themselves.  Salvador Carrasco's movie about the subjugation of the Aztecs,   La Otra Conquista, was nominated for six Ariel awards (the Mexican Oscars) in 1999; Flaco saw it, liked it a lot 'cause there were people talking real Nahuatl in it, and reportedly it's on the verge of a nationwide US release.  As for Saul Landau, well, that learned cat's been around the block and the Western Hemisphere a few times.  In fact if you've got an hour and Windows Media Player you can even catch one of his more important recent films, The Sixth Sun, filmed by the legendary Haskell Wexler, in glorious streaming video if you're so inclined.(use this link if you've got a fast connection).

What happened when Flaco met Paco?  Not much; ese gordito was dashing around the room with so much energy trying to appease the everyone vying for face time, that this reporter never got a chance to ask him about Para leer en libertad, his enormous book giveaway in Mexico City.  Such modern classics as Fahrenheit 451 were handed out to young readers to the tune of a third of a million copies, in a place where worthwhile reading matter is a luxury.

Would you like to read something in English about this terrific program?  So would I.  Send a link if you have one.  It's covered widely in Spanish, like at     Leading Mexican library thinker Felipe Meneses Tello (creator of Correo Bibliopolítico) wrote a challenging piece in the UNAM magazine Humanidades that contrasts Taibo's generosity against the Mexican government's desire to hoard cultural capital beyond the reach of the masses:


Oralia Garza de Cortés encourages one of the hundreds of kids who enjoyed her Children's Day/Book Day activities in LA

Speaking of free books and distinguished librarians, another marvelous book giveaway was engineered by Oralia Garza de Cortés in celebration of Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros on April 28.  The praiseworthy Rebecca Constantino of Access Books kicked in the libros, and the niños came down to the basement of the cathedral of the oldest church in Los Angeles after Mass, to hear stories and draw pictures.  Oralia's a recent past president of REFORMA, and she entranced the chamacos with her delightful storytelling, organized and supervised the setup and progamming, and kept the participants smiling.  All this after doing the same thing the day before in another part of town.


Kids' Day/Book Day was celebrated this year all over the place--maybe in  your place.  San Francisco for example staged a lot of events, and the ALA made sure to line up and publicize a way for folks to get funds for their fun.

4. More than a lobbying tool!  It's an idea bank for grantseekers

Looking for inspiration for grant proposals and service projects?  Visit the American Library Association's LSTA Success Stories site and read about stuff like bilingual computer training in San Berdoo, an ambitious Community  Technology Center in Broward County, and the Born to Read program that recruits library users who were born yesterday as you ask yourself why it came as such a big freakin' "surprise" to the organizers that people in Mesa, AZ would want their materials in Spanish, too.

5. Northwest librarians eager to launch REFORMA chapter

From:  ABIGAIL Elder
Subject: Oregon-Washington REFORMA Chapter...

Hello! Please pass the word to the SOL-subscribers:

Library staff members from Oregon and Washington met in April to begin the task of creating a REFORMA chapter in the Northwest. Our goal is to submit the paperwork in time for the ALA Mid-winter chapter.

We formed two temporary committees to start the process: a formation committee to create by-laws and a communications committee. If you are interested in serving on these committees, please contact Ken Ayala Gollersrud at

We are using the Biblio listserv from Multnomah County Library to facilitate communications with the group. For information about joining the Biblio listserv or to view minutes from the meeting, please go to:

Abigail Elder, Salem Public Library

6. Diary of a Mad Library School Student

Don't miss Ana Álvarez's classroom guide to Spanish-language Internet training; Ana invites you to contact her for more such materials as well as teaching tips.  The Ensenada native has been leading such classes at Seattle Public Library for several years now.  Her degree is in Education, not bookslinging, hence the message below:

From: Ana Alvarez

Subject: Re: Que Tremendo!

I was thinking qu
é interesante sería tener un rinconcito donde SOL-fanáticos could read about job interview experiences good and not so good, y también library school experiences.  Like a diary of library school student, algo así.  Demystifying these experiences would be beneficial for those considering the profession. 

talk to you soon,

What a great idea!  We know that no MLIS student is likely to shoulder the job of baring her or his soul for SOL, not unless some library school professor is willing to ante up the quid pro quo in the form of class credit.  Any takers?

7. Pew Hispanic Center

The Pew Hispanic Center at the University of Southern California is busy taking the pulse of Latinos in the US, "to improve understanding of the diverse Hispanic population in the United States and to chronicle Latinos' growing impact on the nation."  The PHC shares its research with "policymakers, business leaders, academic institutions and the media."  Not to mention librarians who visit the Center's site at

(Just between you and me, though, if the Pew people really want to know what's up they'll read the work of uncompromising journalist Gustavo Arellano.)

8.  "Is Anita Bath there, please?  And do you have Prince Albert in a can?"

The recent feud between Vicente Fox and Fidel Castro has Flaco wondering once again, why can't we all just be friends?  To find out why not, read an English translation of the infamous phone call at

9. Biblioteca Latinoamericana

The quickest and most interesting way to San Jose these days is via the scenic website of Los Amigos de la Biblioteca Latinoamericana de San Jose, CA at   Tour the remarkable library, enjoy its art installations, find out about its Spanish-language book discussions, and marvel at the site's array of links to Latin American news sources

10. Republicans, NBC eager to cash in on the language of Cervantes

Your library isn't alone in wooing Spanish speakers.  Catch stories on NBC's efforts to grab bigger Latino audiences by collaborating with its recent acquisition Telemundo, and about the GOP's upcoming Spanish-language TV show, which probably won't be hosted by Pete Wilson, at


Bruce Jensen

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