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Five Questions with Catalina Gómez, Reference Librarian, Hispanic Reading Room

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This post is written by Catalina Gómez of the Library of Congress.

Catalina Gomez
Catalina Gomez

Describe what you do at the Library of Congress and the materials you work with.

I am a reference librarian in the Library’s Hispanic Reading Room, which serves as a research center for patrons interested in using our Luso-Hispanic collections. These collections are vast, and can include materials in a myriad of formats: from books, to historical manuscripts, photographs, films, maps, audio recordings. They pertain to the regions of Spain, Portugal, Latin America, Caribbean, the indigenous cultures of those areas, and the peoples influenced by Luso-Hispanic heritage such as U.S. Latinos. More specifically, I am in charge of recommending collections from Colombia, Venezuela, as well as material on Latin American art for the Library; and I work on the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape, a collection of audio recordings of prominent poets and prose writers, which the Hispanic Division began curating in the early 1940s. I have been working on an effort to digitize and bring online access to some of these literary audio archives.

Do you have a favorite item from the Library’s online collections?

Yes, I think my favorite item in the Library is the recording of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda reading his poetry which is part of the Archives of Hispanic Literature on Tape.

Share a time when an item from the collections sparked your curiosity.

In addition to literature, I am very passionate about the visual arts. Because of this, some of the materials that have definitely sparked my curiosity here in the Library have been materials from the Artist’s Book collection. These outstanding books are housed at the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collection Division. They are gorgeous works of art created by book artists around the world, and they’re just the perfect blend between my two favorite worlds: literature and art!

Tell us about a memorable interaction with a K-12 teacher or student.

Juan Felipe Herrera, Sarita Sol Gonzales and Elena Medina. Photograph by Shawn Miller
Juan Felipe Herrera, Sarita Sol Gonzales and Elena Medina. Photograph by Shawn Miller

One of my most memorable interactions with a K-12 students was during our Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s closing event this past April. For this program, two amazing 11-year-olds, Sarita Sol González, and Elena Izcalli Medina, were flown by the Library from across the country (from New Mexico and California respectively) to share the stage with the Poet Laureate. These girls, who call themselves, “poetas chicanas feministas” (feminist chicana poets), read their own poetry and made our hearts soar. Before and after their reading I had very memorable conversations with them about the power of books, poetry, art, and the great importance of knowing and loving our roots. It was definitely an interaction that I won’t forget.

What’s one thing you’d like to tell teachers about the materials that you work with or the collections in general?

One thing I’d like to tell teachers about our collections here in the Library of Congress is that they are truly universal. They not only represent the most important aspects of American history and culture, but also vast and comprehensive collections from many nations of the world. These international collections are so vast that often-times researchers from a given country have to travel to the Library  to find wonderful and unique materials from their own nation and culture. Our collections truly reflect the universality that characterized Thomas Jefferson, whose personal library became the seed for what this Library is today.


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