(The following is a post by Catalina Gómez, reference librarian in the Hispanic Division.)
Earlier in May, I had the good fortune to travel to Bogotá, Colombia to attend one of Latin America’s largest book fairs. The Feria Internacional del Libro de Bogotá (FILBO) (Bogotá’s International Book Festival) is held annually in Colombia’s capital, and it is a truly wonderful and much anticipated event for book lovers in the country and around the world, and for professionals who are involved in the fields of publishing, librarianship, and education.
This was my first time attending FILBO, although I was born in Bogotá and lived there until I was 18 years old. I am embarrassed to confess that I never made it to the fair in my childhood or adolescent years as my ardent passion for books developed a bit later in my life. I was ecstatic to have the Library of Congress send me “home” to my book fair! And it was fantastic to be there! It was clear to me, by the end of my time at the fair, that Colombia’s publishing industry is booming and that it has become one of Latin America’s publishing hubs alongside Mexico and Argentina.
Attending book fairs is both enlightening and instrumental in facilitating our jobs as reference librarians. One has the chance to dive into the richness of a particular region’s publishing universe and get a very good sense of the current offerings in all disciplines, in a variety of subject areas, and from all kinds of different publishing houses. As the recommending officer for materials from Colombia and Venezuela for the Library, being at the book fair was like being in a candy store.
It goes without saying that being a librarian means that one should already possess knowledge about publishing trends, but attending book fairs like FILBO helps us keep this knowledge fresh and current. During my many strolls through the exhibit halls, I was able to gain deeper knowledge about the large and important publishing houses and distributors from the region. Equally, if not more importantly, book fairs provide a unique opportunity to become familiar with smaller, non-mainstream publishers and presses. For instance, I discovered several small presses devoted to artist books, poetry, fiction and graphic novels whose projects completely blew my mind!
Attending many of the free events offered at the fair was the frosting on the cake. I was able to go to a lecture by the renowned Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos, as well as readings and discussions with many prominent Latin American literary figures and intellectuals.
Having the opportunity to attend this grand event was rewarding and eye opening. I came back to Washington, DC feeling inspired by my newly gained knowledge.