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LACIC Librarian attends Librarian's Program to Cuba, March 19-30, 2000

By Catherine Marsicek

For 10 days in March, I had the opportunity to attend a Librarian’s Program to Cuba, organized by Rhonda Neugebauer from Wichita State University. Along with 11 other U.S. librarians, many of them Latin American bibliographers or specialists, we toured a variety of libraries and institutes, met with Cuban librarians and discussed the role of librarianship in Cuba. Among the libraries and institutes visited were the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, Instituto de Historia de Cuba, Archivo Nacional de Cuba, Casa de las Américas, Biblioteca Central Rubén Martínez Villena of the Universidad de la Habana, Biblioteca Pública Rubén Martínez Villena in Havana, Biblioteca Provincial Elvira Cape in Santiago de Cuba, Ediciones Vigía, Instituto de Información Científica y Technológica, and Escuela de Formación de Técnicos Bibliotecarios.

A principal purpose of the trip was to establish relationships with Cuban librarians and with other Latin Americanist librarians in the United States. Through the extensive professional and personal exchanges held at nearly every library and institute, I feel privileged to count many Cuban librarians as my new professional colleagues. Truly dedicated to their profession, I found the Cuban librarians very resourceful and creative in the face of scarce resources. The dedication to public services and the determination in meeting the challenges of automation were two areas that genuinely impressed me. As for my U.S. counterparts, many of whom have been working together for years, they welcomed me and I anticipate many productive working relationships. These new professional and personal connections will prove invaluable in future professional development.

Similar to many libraries that are under funded, many of the Cuban libraries that we visited are interested in establishing and expanding monographic and serial exchange programs with U.S. libraries in order to increase their collections. They are especially interested in works published about Cuba and by Cubans abroad, although general humanities and social sciences are also of interest. Many of these mutually beneficial exchange relationships currently exist between Cuban libraries and U.S. libraries and institutions. Although publishing has suffered dramatically on the island over the past 10 years, several librarians and publishers that I spoke with assured me that this situation is slowly changing. This is good news as it will probably result in increased production and better quality publications in the future.

But the trip was not all work and no play. In our free time, many of us visited museums, ate Coppelia ice cream, caught the new Cuban comedy "Paraíso bajo las estrellas" and wandered the streets.

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December 1, 2002