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Connecting Communities Digital Initiative – An Interview with Giselle M. Avilés

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We are happy to introduce Giselle M. Avilés, Librarian in the Hispanic Reading Room, who recently completed a detail with the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative (CCDI).

What is your job at the Library?

Mural by Cândido Portinari in the Hispanic Division Reading Room, Thomas Jefferson Building. Shawn Miller, photographer. 2019. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

I am a reference librarian in the Hispanic Reading Room of the Latin American, Caribbean, and European Division. In this role, I recommend the acquisitions of materials from several South American countries, do outreach, work on events (now virtual too), provide reference via different mediums such as LibAnswers, email, phone, and in person. I also create reference tools with the Library’s vast materials as research guides and digital storytelling publications by using StoryMaps. And I have to say that the Hispanic Reading Room is one of the most beautiful in the Library, where it invites patrons to do research in a welcoming and colorful atmosphere. The reading room’s architectural marvels include four impressive murals by Brazilian artist Cândido Portinari, Spanish inspired talaveras and balconies, and mudéjar chandeliers.

Giselle M. Avilés. Photo by Eudal A. Fernández

What did you find interesting about the CCDI?

I find interesting the focus on furthering the understanding of United States history through our collections and the creation of innovative projects by the communities themselves. As a reference librarian, sometimes it has been challenging to find materials of Latin American heritage in the United States in online format. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out about this grants program and its objectives. CCDI has a great mission on their hands, and I am very much looking forward to seeing and using the completed projects as reference tools. The Library’s digital collections will be a wonderful corpus of materials for Americans of all heritages to learn more about their communities and their histories. It is exciting to see how the Library is changing towards more digital resources where people of all backgrounds, from all over the world, can access. As a researcher, this is extremely valuable!

What are some of your responsibilities as part of the CCDI team?

I helped the team by contributing to the Widening the Path blog, responding to inquiries from potential grantees, organizing the panels for application review. It was a wonderful experience to learn first-hand about current cultural heritage projects and funding practices. I cannot recommend the opportunity enough to anyone interested in learning from other offices while still working for the Library. I feel privileged to work for an organization that allows staff to work on these temporary assignments and make connections with other divisions. It has been a pleasure to collaborate with the CCDI team!

What was the most interesting project you work for during your detail?

Apart from learning the various steps of the grants process, I developed more knowledge about multiple LC collections. By contributing to the blog Of the People: Widening the Path, I discovered and explored more digital collections as well as reference materials from LC Labs. The writing exercise allowed me to think about the person on the other side of the computer/cellphone and how my blog posts were going to help in discovering the richness of our online resources. This is why I add many links to my blog posts! I want patrons to “get lost” on our website and find lots of treasures.

The Codex Quetzalecatzin. 1593. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division

What are your favorite collections and/or items?

This is a difficult question to answer, but I will mention several favorite items and collections. The 16th century Codex Quetzalecatzin (you can learn more about it here), the Cândido Portinari murals, the PALABRA Archive audio recordings, Jack Delano and Edwin Rosskam’s photographs about Puerto Rico’s cultural and economic changes, a Peruvian miniature tunic (archaeological item part of the William and Inger Ginsberg Collection), the 17th century book The Art of the Quechua Language, and 15th century Bartolomé de las Casas statement of opinion. Here you have a mix of very ancient and modern resources in different formats,–an example of why the Library of Congress is an amazing place for your research. When I say you can “get lost” on our website, I mean it!

Sugar cane workers resting, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Jack Delano, photographer. 1941. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division










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Explore also

Of the People: Widening the Path program website For more information on the Of the People program.

Connecting Communities Digital Initiative page To learn more about the different grant opportunities. 

Library of Congress Digital Collections The largest online collection of Library materials with over 1 million items. You will find resources about American history, world cultures, folklife, art, architecture, science, performing arts, among many other topics.

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog These materials are also in the Digital Collections, but here you can narrow your search on items specifically to photographs and posters.

Library of Congress Research Guides Library’s guides organized by research topic and collections – these include both online materials, and materials only available on site.

Library of Congress StoryMaps Multimedia storytelling publications on Library’s materials that can include rare books, photographs, audio recordings, music, maps, and more. Some of these StoryMaps include materials in other languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, and Nahuatl.

Classroom Materials at the Library These are organized primary source collections of online materials that are often paired with teaching and student guides.

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