(The following is a post by Tracy North, reference librarian and co-editor, HLAS, Hispanic Division.)
Which Latin American country grows over 4,000 kinds of potatoes?
How many countries are in South America?
Who wrote Don Quixote?*
At the 2018 National Book Festival, the Hispanic Division’s table, at the Library of Congress’ pavilion, hosted a trivia contest that was challenging and entertaining for visitors of all ages and from all walks of life.
I must admit, it may have helped that Hispanic Division staff members offered candy to those who played the games, but at times there were 10-15 people gathered around our table to test their knowledge of Latin America (the Caribbean, Central America, and South America) and Spain and Portugal. Participants either picked a random question out of a basket about these rich and fascinating parts of the world, or chose questions displayed on a giant screen with images of posters and photographs from the Library’s collections.
Once we attracted people to our table with the trivia contest, we were able to showcase some of our unique collection items, such as the catalog for the Exploring the Early Americas permanent exhibit in the Jefferson Building and the groundbreaking publication about Hispanic American representation in the US Congress published by the Historian’s Office of the US House of Representatives. We also fielded some wonderful, provocative questions from members of the public. Quite a few teachers were curious about our collections – especially English translations of Latin American writers. We were proud to showcase the Translation sections of the Handbook of Latin American Studies, a selective annotated bibliography published since 1936. Anyone can search the HLAS database for free on the Library of Congress’ website.
We highlighted the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape, a tremendous resource for those curious about literature. The Archive captures the voices of over 800 Latin American, Spanish, and Portuguese writers recorded over the course of more than 50 years. Over 200 of the recordings are currently available for streaming from our website, and more are added each year. The site also includes biographies of all of the writers we’ve recorded over the years. At the Festival, we handed out hundreds of bookmarks and pamphlets with additional information about the Hispanic Division.
Perhaps the most surprising questions we received were about the location of the Library of Congress and whether it was open to the public. In case you too are wondering about this, the Library is located at 101 Independence Avenue SE, directly behind the US Capitol and next to the Supreme Court. And YES, we are open to any and all readers who are at least 16 years old. The Hispanic Reading Room is open to researchers from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. We never require any documentation about your research. You simply need to obtain a reader’s card (with a valid ID) and you may come in and use our collections. The three other international reading rooms — African and Middle Eastern, Asian, and European — have the same hours. A number of the Library’s other reading rooms are open until 9:30 p.m. some evenings and on Saturdays.
That said, even if you are not planning to read, study, or otherwise use the reading rooms of the Library of Congress, you should still pay us a visit. The inspiring Jefferson Building is open for visitors from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There are many wonderful exhibits available for all to see. Twice a year the Library’s magnificent Main Reading Room is open to everyone. You can walk around this hallowed space without having to get a reader’s card or check your bags in the cloak room. You are also allowed and encouraged to take pictures on these two days–unlike the rest of the year when the space is reserved for research purposes and photographs are not allowed. The selected dates are generally federal holidays when the Main Reading Room would otherwise be closed. The next open house will be Monday, October 8, 2018.
We want to thank everyone who attended the National Book Festival and made it such a remarkable event for us. We were impressed with your depth of knowledge about the parts of the world we hold near and dear to our hearts. And we hope you walked away with additional information about the history, language and literature, culture, and natural resources of Latin America, Spain, and Portugal. We hope to see you soon – either in person at the Library of Congress or on our website exploring the many resources available to you!
[*Answers to the trivia questions: (1) Peru; (2) 12 – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela; (3) Spaniard Miguel de Cervantes in 1605 and 1615.]