Saturday, 16 October 2010

Travelling Librarian - visits Miami

That Florida is a centre of expertise and scholarship in Latin America and the Caribbean should not be a surprise. The geography of Florida in relation to Latin America and the Caribbean, the impact of migration and familial connections, and the role of Florida as a gateway to trade between the US and Latin American and the Caribbean all contribute to the strengths of academic study (and library resources) in Florida.

Visiting Miami one can't help but be aware of the links between Florida and Latin America and the Caribbean. Whether it is eating at Cuban and Haitian rsetaurants, listening to people speak Spanish on the bus, or seeing the range of passports on display at the airport you can not but be aware that this is in many respects a Caribbean city.

I spent time at two universities in Miami - Florida International University and the University of Miami. Florida International University (FIU) is a relatively new university, chartered in 1967 and opening in 1972. FIU is a state university with a student body of nearly 40,000. I visited staff at the Latin American and Caribbean Information Center, a department of the University Library, as well as staff in Special Collections and Reference services.The Library collects material across Latin America and the Caribbean, and also hosts the co-ordinator for the Digitial Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) . (I'll be posting more on dLOC soon).

The University of Miami, founded in 1925, is a private research university with more than 15,000 students. I spoke with the Latin American and Caribbean subject specialist, staff at Special Collections and staff at the Cuban Heritage Collection. Cuban collections have been strong since the foundation of the university and enhanced by strong links with the local Cuban communities, since the 1920's. The library also collects across Latin America and the Caribbean. The Library's special collections include holdings relating to the history of Florida and the Caribbean Basin, including the West Indies; the northern coastal regions of South America, Central America, and Mexico. The holdings include all but three of the dozens of books published in or about Jamaica between its conquest by the English in the 1650s and the end of plantation slavery in the British Empire in 1834, and travel narratives and other first-hand accounts which describe the societies and histories of the major West Indies islands as well as the smaller countries like Barbados, Antigua, Trinidad, and St. Lucia. The department also contains a number of rare titles on Guyana and Surinam. The Library has been involved in a number of digitial initiatives and has a number of online exhibits available.

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