My Job: Talia Guzmán-González

Reference librarian Talía Guzmán-González helps readers and researchers find what they’re looking for in the Hispanic Division.

Talía Guzmán-González. Photo: Shawn Miller.

Describe your work at the Library.

I connect people with the resources they need to create, explore and satisfy their curiosity about the Caribbean, Latin America, Portugal, Spain and the Latinx community. I consider myself a connector in my personal life — I love bringing people together — so it’s only natural that I work in a field that would put me in contact with so many people from around the world who are eager to learn.

As a reference librarian in the Hispanic Division, I am responsible for recommending material (to add to our collections) from Brazil, Portugal, Spain, and Puerto Rico. I also offer reference services, organize public events, co-produce a podcast with my colleague Catalina Gómez and record authors for our unique literary archive in the Hispanic Division. I am also very active in the Hispanic Cultural Society, a staff organization that aims to promote, preserve and share all aspects of the Hispanic community in the Library at large.

How did you prepare for your position?

I have been preparing for this position my entire life. Since I was a teenager, I have worked in bookstores in Puerto Rico, New York and Baltimore, so I consider that my informal but essential “training” in being a reference librarian — I learned early on how to connect people with the material they were looking for.

As for “formal” training, you can say I am a lifelong learner. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American studies from the University of Puerto Rico, a master’s in Portuguese from Indiana University-Bloomington, a Ph.D. in Luso-Brazilian studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s in library science from the University of Maryland in College Park. Everything I have done in one way or another has brought me to this position. This is my first job as a reference librarian, and I have to say, it’s pretty fantastic.

“Discovery of Gold” by Candido Portinari, one of the murals in the Hispanic Reading Room. Photo: Carol Highsmith.

What are some of your favorite collection items?

My favorite item is probably not a collection item at all but a representation or metaphor of all collection items: the four murals in the Hispanic Reading Room by Brazilian painter Candido Portinari. As a trained Brazilianist, it speaks to my academic side in profound ways. As a caribeña (Caribbean woman), it’s a beautiful depiction of our complex history. As a reference librarian, it serves as an entry point to connect users with the collections at large. Each panel speaks to the work we do every day in the Hispanic Reading Room: discovery, connection and outreach.

How is it satisfying to connect researchers with the material they need?

We had a user come to the Hispanic Division to read what looked like a young adult novel published in Spain during the 1940s. She came a couple of hours a day to read, and when she finished I asked her about the book. She told me she had been looking for this title for many years unsuccessfully. It was her favorite growing up in Cuba, but after 1959 she had to leave the country and all her childhood books behind. It was so gratifying seeing these two “friends” reconnect thanks to the library’s extensive international collection. Moments like this make my job truly gratifying.

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