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Hispanic Reading Room (Area Studies, Library of Congress)
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About the Hispanic Reading Room

The reading room, named after the Hispanic Society in New York, was dedicated in 1939 to serve as a focal point to orient and assist readers interested in the Luso-Hispanic materials available throughout the Library of Congress. The Hispanic Reading Room is the primary access point for research related to Iberia, Latin America, and the Caribbean; the indigenous cultures of those areas; and peoples throughout the world historically influenced by Luso-Hispanic heritage, including Latinos in the U.S., and peoples of Portuguese or Spanish heritage in Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

The Hispanic Reading Room owes its unique design to the French-American architect and industrial designer Paul Philippe Cret. Already a well-established architect when he was hired by the Library of Congress, Cret's portfolio included designs for the Pan-American Union Building (now the OAS) and the Folger Shakespeare Library, both in Washington DC, as well as the master architectural plan for the University of Texas at Austin, among many other projects.

Drawing inspiration from Spanish and Portuguese Renaissance architecture, the reading room features high vaulted ceilings of white plaster and large windows extending nearly floor to ceiling. The room is lit by dual wrought iron chandeliers decorated with graceful scrollwork. Running high along the east and west walls of the room are the names of Luso-Hispanic literary greats from the Old and the the New Worlds, including Cervantes, Sarmiento, Camoes, and Dario, among others. Shining blue and white tiles, known as talavera, from Puebla, Mexico add a bright touch of color to the lower half of the west walls. One of Cret's original sketches and a 1940 photograph of the completed reading room are available through the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.

As readers enter the room, they are welcomed by four brilliantly colored murals painted on the entryway walls in 1941 by Brazilian artist Cândido Portinari. The murals portray scenes from the encounter and exploration of the New World. While seated at one of the room's solid wood tables, researchers can gaze at a shimmering mural depicting the coat of arms of Columbus before turning back their laptops or to one of the computers made available for readers.

In addition to a 6,000 volume reference collection, the Hispanic reading Room also houses the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape. This unparalleled audio collection features Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American, and Latino writers reading passages from their own works. Registered readers may listen to the tapes in the reading room. Library staff have begun digitizing the Archive and expect to launch an online site in May. The papers of distinguished Brazilian lawyer and feminist Romy Medeiros da Fonseca and a unique collection of Mexican Revolution newspaper clippings are also available in the reading room. Hispanic Division staff provide reference assistance to readers from 8:30am-5:00pm, Monday through Friday.

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  July 30, 2015
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