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Five Questions with Suzanne Schadl, Chief of the Hispanic Division, Library of Congress

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Suzanne Schadl. Photograph by Maria Thurber

This post was written by Suzanne Schadl of the Library of Congress.

Describe what you do at the Library of Congress and the materials you work with as part of your day-to-day activities.

I am chief of the Hispanic Division. We help build and promote Luso-Hispanic collections in the Library of Congress, working with many other divisions to acquire, make accessible, and stimulate learning around international and ethnic materials in multiple formats. Our staff directs people to diverse collection items through reference consultations, collaborative outreach, electronic interfaces that include audio and visual engagement, and thoughtful interventions in foreign language and cultural instruction as well as field-sourced bibliographic work with nearly 130 educators in 41 states. My day-to-day activities are managing staff whose activities enumerated below are ESPECIAL (special in both Portuguese and Spanish).

Managing a division where staff…

Experiment with different ideas for sharing information in 26 languages from 61 countries and territories,

Study collection strengths and weaknesses,

Promote collections and services to a mix of people with interdisciplinary interests,

Engage people with collection items across the Library’s collections,

Collaborate with other divisions, departments, and organizations,

Identify opportunities for growth and collaboration,

Apply best-practices in helping people find (or discover) collection material,

Learn something new every day – this is the lifeblood of librarianship and teaching.

Do you have a favorite item from the Library’s online collections? Why is it your favorite item?

Preparatory drawing for a mural by Cândido Portinari, around 1941.

Favorites are tough because I am serially interested in many things. How about a few examples of items that have excited my appreciation for the Library of Congress since I arrived in October 2018!

The Huexotzinco Codex, a noted treasure in the Manuscripts Division, is indicative of indigenous papermaking, writing, and legal advocacy in the Americas. In addition, as a rare item from the Harkness collection, which helped secure a space for Latin American collections at the Library of Congress, it is truly especial.

The audio recording of Chilean Poet Nicanor Parra, who called himself an anti-poet and was also a mathematician and physicist, challenges pomp and circumstance in poetry. Simply put, he had a voice like no other, in both the aural and philosophical sense. One of his works, Artefactos, still eludes me. Goals!

Last, but never least, are the Cândido Portinari murals at the entrance of the Hispanic Reading Room, one of which I can see from my desk. Portinari was among the first Brazilian figures I had the good fortune to study in graduate school. I never dreamed I might work in the physical presence of his creativity.

Handbook of Latin American Studies Homepage

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

Here too, it is hard to pick only one. I will speak generally about a resource that proved foundational for me as a student, which still helps me as a professional.

I have used the Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS) since I was a student. This annotated bibliography was initially an effort to create a community of practice that shared resources across academic disciplines. The community was (and remains) important because Latin American topics were (and still are) marginalized in academic departments and in many libraries. That means people are less likely to find the content and references without some form of community. Before the semantic web enabled linking, HLAS helped me make important connections as a student. In my current role, I use HLAS essays to build collections and design engagement activities. For instance, an older HLAS essay helped me highlight a historical trend, which led librarians at the Library of Congress to acquire the Spanish Legal Documents collection. This collection comprises the content of the By the People Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents. I wrote about that discovery in the Library’s Four Corners of the World blog.

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

Recently, I had a beautiful interaction with a group of young people called the Kid Quixotes. They are Spanish and English speaking and they range in age from 3-17. This group, from Brooklyn, meets every Saturday, these days online, to perform and connect through theater – hence the reference to Don Quixote de la Mancha. Together with Allina Migoni in the American Folklife Center, I had the good fortune of welcoming this group to the Library of Congress. I decided to display visual references to Quixote and highlight the connection between art and performance, starting with a portfolio of Quixote-inspired drawings by Cândido Portinari, the same artist featured at the entrance of our Reading Room. The kids ate it up, flipping through the images screaming, “this is when Quixote ran into the windmill” or “this is when Sancho ran out screaming about giants.” Inspired by their genuine excitement for the story, I decided to treat them to a very special behind-the-scenes visit to stacks full of different versions of this story in many different languages. It was a treat for all of us!

What’s one thing you’d like to tell teachers/library users/library visitors about the materials that you work with, the Library’s collections, or about the Library?

Short and simple: we are here to learn with you! Don’t hesitate to connect.



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