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Since the end of the civil war in El Salvador, both the country’s economic recovery and the re–building of democratic political processes have been rapid; less well known is a similar resurgence in cultural activities— among them library and information services. Efforts of the government, individual institutions, and the library association, coupled with international assistance from such agencies as UNESCO and the governments of Spain, Mexico, and the United States, have contributed to this progress. The U.S. Embassy has played an important role through the work of the United States Information Service (USIS) and the Agency for International Development (AID).
On 30 June 1995, the Association of Librarians of El Salvador (ABES) organized a program at the Dr. José Matías Delgado University to recognize some of the steps taken to enhance library and information services, and to bid farewell to American cultural attaché Thomas Pickrel on the completion of his tour of duty in the country. Association President Carlos Ferrer opened the program by welcoming the audience and introducing those on the podium. On behalf of USIS, Dr. Pickrel then presented to the university a collection of texts and reference books to support its program of American studies; it was accepted by Vice Rector Carlos Quintanilla, who gave a brief account of steps taken to improve the University’s library service: the merging of several small collections into a single library; appointment of a new director; preparation of a program for library development; and planning a library building — now under construction on the campus.
Dr. William V. Jackson gave a lecture entitled “The New York Public Library after 100 Years,” in which he described the history, administration, collections, and finance of NYPL. His presentation included a showing of “The People’s Palace,” a recent television production on the library. In his role as library advisor to USIS/ San Salvador since 1994, Jackson has reviewed the state of libraries and library training in El Salvador, given advice, and made recommendations for improvements in library and information services.
Dr. Pickrel was then honored not only for USIS’ s general support of libraries through its ongoing program of book distribution to more than 100 libraries, but also for his personal dedication to aiding library development. Among those who paid tribute was Professor Natalia Luz Hernández, head of the library science program at the University of El Salvador (UES).
The Library Association presented a certificate to Marta Silvia Hernández, librarian of the Supreme Court, as “Librarian of the Year.” Eighteen new members were inducted into the Association. Following this there was a break for refreshments and informal discussion, and a short program of Salvadoran folk dances.
Twenty persons selected by ABES and AID for library training at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (EGBCI) at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) were introduced. A grant from AID has provided scholarships and funded the development of a special academic program; Professor Arturo Fernández–Ortiz will coordinate the program in San Juan. Grantees came from public, university, and school libraries; they will spend a year at UPR and return to El Salvador in July 1996.
The final speaker on the program was Helen Guardado de Del Cid, director of Bibliographic and Documentary Patrimony in the National Cultural Council (CONCULTURA). She pointed out that the National Library (BN) will celebrate the 125th anniversary of its founding the following week and that, following its move into new quarters early in 1994, the Library has taken steps to improve its collections and services.
While this “Library Day” called attention to progress in a number of directions, it is important to remember that still more activities have played a role in El Salvador’s “library renaissance.” Among them are the reorganization of the library system of UES, and a move to a new building (whose construction was funded by the Government of Spain); a project underway (with assistance from USIS) at the Gallardo Library (a private institution) to produce a retrospective national bibliography; selection of two Salvadoran librarians to participate in the program of training and professional development for Central American librarians at the Mortenson Center of the University of Illinois Library (under a grant from the Mellon Foundation); improvement in the public library system (with aid from the Government of Mexico); and the opening of a new cultural center (supported by the New York–based Intercambios Culturales of El Salvador) with a collection of more than 10,000 volumes in the Fine Arts and a bilingual children’s collection.
We should remember that the program on 30 June was marked less by a mood of self–congratulation than by a recognition that more work remains to be done. To glance at the University’s partially finished library that day was to realize that improving library and information services in El Salvador resembles a job which, like a new edifice, day by day moves toward completion.
|Dr. Thomas Pickrel (sixth from left, top row) poses with Salvadorans now studying at the University of Puerto Rico.|
|Dr. William V. Jackson with map showing distribution of the branches of the New York Public Library.|
William V. Jackson is Associate Editor of Third World Libraries, and a Senior Fellow in the Graduate School of Library and Information Sciene at Dominican University.
©1995 William V. Jackson.
Jackson, William V., “Program Report: Association of Librarians of El Salvador, June 30, 1995,” Third World Libraries, Volume 6, Number 1 (Fall 1995).