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Aula Máxima es la biblioteca y también lugar de recreo del espíritu.   - José Vasconcelos


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"One-Man Survey: How Mexican-Americans View Libraries," by Roberto Haro Wilson Library Bulletin 44.7 (March 1970) pp. 736-742


There have, I'll admit, been user and non-user surveys carried out with more statistical rigor, more conventional academic formality. But none have surpassed the passion, sincerity, and devotion of the One-Man Survey. Young library crusader Haro spent five years on the sidewalks and park benches of Sacramento and East Los Angeles talking with people in Spanish about how they used (or in more cases, didn't use) libraries. His findings and conclusions were undeniably influential in reshaping U.S. library service, but what is more instructive and compelling thirty years later is how he got those findings.

Haro sometimes wore phony facial hair and dressed in grubby clothes while out prowling for data. Instead of staying in the building and talking librarian-to-patron, he spoke as an equal with everyday people who didn't know where the building was. The One-Man Survey is a masterpiece of do-it-yourself ethnographic research, a vivid and entertaining account of the place where librarianship meets anthropology.

That's rough terrain; too rough for some librarians and scholars, but worthy of exploration by those with enough nerve and spirit to try. Haro took the trouble to learn what the neighborhood really thought about the library, and what he discovered was not reassuring or comforting. He heard things that census data never would have revealed and that user questionnaires never would have hinted at. The message that makes the One-Man Survey still worth reading is this: If you care about your library and its place in the community, get to know the community. Listen to what it says. Pay attention. Pay attention.

 


 

 

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