Thursday, January 26, 2012

Latino Digital Content Working Group: A Summary

“An archive is a repository - that is, a place or space in which materials of historic interest or social significance are stored and ordered. A national archive is the storing and ordering place of the collective memory of that nation or people(s)”-- Richard Harvey Brown and Beth Davis-Brown in "The making of memory: the politics of archives, libraries and museums in the construction of national consciousness,” in History of the Human Sciences, November 1998, vol. 11, no. 4, 17-32.
As librarians we are well aware that the production of information is not always a democratic and equitable process. We have also come to learn that certain information is privileged and other is marginalized or discarded. It was this consciousness that spurred the establishment of ethnic, gender and/or LGBT specific collections over the last few decades. With the advent of digital content we once again see a similar pattern of certain information being valued while other information is being forgotten.  In order to ensure that certain communities are represented in the digital environment it is imperative that targeted efforts be carried out. Furthermore, in addition to questions of representation, questions of cost and accessibility also need to be considered.  It is this backdrop that has led to an exploration of the status of Latino digital information.

In September of 2011 at the REFORMA National Conference (RNCIV) a panel entitled “Emerging Models for Sharing Digital Collections: Latino Digital Content” took place. Panelists Lillian Castillo-Speed, Richard Chabran and Norma Corral explored various models of creating, sharing, packaging, and marketing Latino digital products. This panel sparked further conversations about the need for creating and preserving Latino digital content that is freely available and not sequestered by the costly subscription fees demanded by information vendors.
Energized by the conversations shared at RNC, a workgroup of librarians have continued the discussion via conference calls and in-person meetings. Through our meetings we have come to appreciate the enormity of planning and implementing some sort of Latino digital content initiative. It is an effort that will eventually require many individuals and organizations to be involved. Guided by the principles that Latino digital content is needed and that it should be freely available, we have been grappling with issues of cost, administrative structure, technology, physical preservation of non-digital items, copyright, potential partners, and the list goes on. We are very much at the formative stages of our initiative and seek to learn more before setting a direction.  In this spirit we plan to gather information and input from others in the coming months. We plan on hosting focus groups at the upcoming conferences (specific dates/times TBA):
·  National Association for Chicana/Chicano Studies, March 2012, Chicago.
·  Orange County Reforma Conference, March 2012
·  American Library Association, June 2012, Anaheim.
·  Joint Conference of Librarians of Color, September 2012, Kansas City.
We hope to learn about related projects and to hear suggestions and comments on what is needed by the various sectors of our community. In addition, we will be administering a survey with a similar purpose of hearing what others are working on and what they think. This will allow those who cannot attend the focus groups to provide input. We hope for wide participation in our focus groups and survey so that we can move forward with this initiative.  
Working Group Members
·  Kathryn Blackmer Reyes, Director, Cultural Heritage Center, San Jose State University
·  Lillian Castillo-Speed, Head Librarian, Ethnic Studies Library, University of California, Berkeley
·  Richard Chabran, Adjunct Professor, School of Information Resources & Library Science, University of Arizona
·  Norma Corral, Librarian
·Lizette Guerra, Librarian & Archivist, Chicano Studies Research Library, UCLA
·  Elizabeth Martinez, Director, Salinas Public Library
·  Romelia Salinas, Head of Access Services/East Los Angeles Archive, California State University, Los Angeles