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Hispanic Reading Room (Area Studies, Library of Congress)

Annual Report
Hispanic Foundation 1939-1940


History and Objectives

A. History

The Hispanic Foundation in the Library of Congress was formally opened to the public October 12, 1939. It owes its origin to the establishment in 1928 of a generous fund for the purchase of new books by Mr. Archer M. Huntington, the founder of the Hispanic Society of America in New York City. It was to provide for the purchase, within 10 years of publication, of books relating to Hispanic arts, crafts, literature and history. Since the creation of this Huntington Fund, the Library of Congress has acquired each year about 2,000 books. In 1928 Mr. Huntington followed his original endowment with another to provide an honorarium for a Consultant in Hispanic Literature.

A decade later funds were made available by an anonymous friend to create a unit in the Library where a good part of its Hispanic material could be brought together. Mr. Huntington has given an endowment for its maintenance. Through the regular appropriation bill effective July 1, 1939, Congress provided for the nucleus of the present staff. The staff has since been enlarged and the Foundation’s effectiveness aided by grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and by funds made available for special projects through the Inter-Departmental Committee for Cooperation with the Other American Republics of the Department of State.

B. Objectives

  1. To build up a comprehensive collection of materials on all aspects of Hispanic culture, carefully organized for reference purposes and made available to investigators of all nations for consultation under the freest possible conditions.

  2. To this end the Hispanic Foundation has a reference collection immediately adjacent to its Reading Room and trained specialists to interpret and analyze its regular collections and consult with readers.

  3. To build and to assist other institutions to build basic tools for work in the field of Hispanic Studies (see III,C,1).

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A. Personnel

1. The Hispanic Foundation is organized in the following units: (1) administration (Director and to a limited extent Assistant Director); (2) Curator-Consultant; (3) research staff; (4) Hispanic Reading Room; (5) Hispanic Catalogue.

2. Description of Duties:

  • Director  (p.4). To direct all aspects of the work of the Hispanic Foundation. The director’s secretary (S.P.5) is in charge of routine communications with the other members of the staff.
  • Assistant Director. To direct all aspects of the work of the Hispanic Foundation and in the Director’s absence to serve as Acting Director. To take charge of all exhibitions in the Hispanic Foundation and to advise in matters involving the Portuguese language and culture. To make recommendations in the acquisition of Portuguese and Brazilian publications and publications on Hispanic art. To answer reference requests in these fields. As Keeper of the Archive of Hispanic Culture (see III, C, 1) to build up a photographic archive of Latin American art and direct the preparation of a Guide to the Arts of Latin America. To assist him in the discharge of these duties the Assistant Director has a secretary on a temporary basis until December 30, 1942 (S.P.4). The time of this secretarial assistant is divided in this way: in the morning she works on business pertaining to the Hispanic Foundation, Portuguese reference requests, etc; in the afternoon her time is given exclusively to the Archive of Hispanic Culture, handling the correspondence relative to the acquisition of photographs and the preparation for publication of the Guide.
  • Curator-Consultant (p.3). Curator of the Collections and Consultant in Hispanic Literature paid from a special trust fund. His duties are to act as advisor to the staff and as consultant to the public on all matters pertaining to the Spanish language and literature in Spain and in Latin America, especially to deal with reference requests in that field and the acquisition of publications in that field. He supervises the work of a secretarial assistant (S.P.5) whose time is divided in this way. In the morning she works on the business of the Curator-Consultant, his correspondence, reference requests, etc. In the afternoon she keeps the attendance records of the Hispanic Foundation staff and helps the Director’s secretary with his correspondence. She replaces when possible that secretary when she is away on leave.
  • Research Staff. The members of this staff are divided between those handling reference requests and analyzing the collections and those engaged on bibliographical compilations to be issued by the Hispanic Foundation.
  • 1. Thus there is a Senior Research Assistant (P.1) who is in charge of Hispanic reference requests either sent directly to the Hispanic Foundation or forwarded to it by other branches of the Library. He answers requests in his own field, which happens to be Latin America economies in the case of the present incumbent and passes on others in the field of Latin American History to the Director, Portuguese culture and Hispanic art to the Assistant Director. Spanish literature to the Curator and Spanish American literature to other members of the staff. All reference requests when completed are cleared through him at the Reference Department. This Senior Research Assistant spends part of his time in the analysis of the Library of Congress’ collections in the field of Latin American economics.

    2. Another Senior Research Assistant (P.1) is employed on a half time basis until December 31, 1942, when the Rockefeller Foundation grant from which she is paid runs out. Her duties are the analysis of the Library’s collections in the filed of Latin American language and literature. A third Senior Research Assistant (P.1), also employed until December 31, 1942, on the same Rockefeller funds, is in charge of the preparation of a Guide to Latin American Periodicals  and a survey entitled Investigations in Progress in the United States in the Field of Latin American Humanistic and Social Science Studies. The latter has just been issued in mimeographed form. The former is to be ready for the press before the calendar year 1942 is ended. This Senior Research Assistant is aided by a Secretarial Assistant or Stenographer (S.P.4) who is employed on the same basis on Rockefeller funds.

    3. These are the members of the research staff proper. There are in addition two other positions that might be grouped wholly or partially within this unit. There are those of the Library Assistant (S.P.4) whose duties are the superintending of the ordering of Hispanic books, who is expected to call to the attention of the chief persons recommending the acquisition of books (Director, Assistant Director, Curator-Consultant) notices of new publications, and who works between the Hispanic Foundation and the Huntington Desk and Gift Desk in the Division of Accessions. He also is called upon from time to time to answer reference requests and perform other research duties by the Director. A final position of this category is that of another Library Assistant (P1), working on a temporary year to year basis (see III, C, 1) to aid the Assistant Director in collecting bibliographical and other information for the Guide to the Art of Latin America, photographs, films, and slides for the Archive of Hispanic Culture, and finally reference requests in the field of Hispanic Art.

    4. Another unit is the The Hispanic Catalogue. This project (described III, C, 1) has the following positions, none of which are permanent or on the regular Library of Congress payroll. Director (P.3), paid from the Anonymous Trust Fund, whose duties are to direct the preparation of an inclusive catalogue of the Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American holdings of the Library of Congress, to be installed in the Hispanic Room. He is assisted by a Cataloguer (P.1) paid from the Rockefeller Fund, by a Secretarial Assistant (S.P.3) and 2 Card Filers (S.P.2), all paid by Rockefeller funds until December 31, 1942.

    5. Finally, there is the unit comprising the staff of the Hispanic Reading Room which consists of the following permanent positions: 1 Library Assistant (3.P.4) to be in charge of the desk in the Hispanic Room, to assist readers and visitors in the Hispanic Room, Direct the distribution of books, supervise the general reference collection, answer general reference requests, and supervise the maintenance of  the Hispanic Catalogue and its interpretation to readers; 1 Library Assistant (S.P.3) to assist the occupant of the above duties, relieving her at certain hours; 1 Messenger (C.U.3) to assist at the Hispanic Foundation desk, distribute books, carry material to and from the bindery, and perform official errands when needed.

3. Rules governing work, hours, vacations, etc.:

    The Hispanic Foundation is open to the public on the following schedules: weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturdays from 9:00a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Sundays and holidays from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. During these hours the Hispanic Reading Room is open and the Hispanic Desk is functioning. On Sundays and holidays the Desk force is sometimes recruited from other members of the Hispanic Foundation staff and occasionally a member of another division of the Library of Congress is employed but always under the direct supervision of some member of the Hispanic Foundation’s own staff. At hours when the Reading Room of the Hispanic Foundation is not open to the public, its collections are serviced to readers via the main reading room. All other members of the Hispanic Foundation staff with the exception of the Reading Room-Desk employee work from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

B. Physical Description of Division

1. Quarters

The Hispanic Foundation is housed in a series of apartments called The Hispanic Room along the east side of the second floor of the Main Building of the Library of Congress, between the Rare Book Room and the Division of Fine Arts. These include: 2 vestibules decorated with 4 murals by the Brazilian painter Cândido Portinari, representing colonial culture and history in Hispanic America, a large reading room designed and decorated in Spanish Renaissance style by the architect Paul Philippe Creti with a mural painting on steel representing the arms of Columbus by Buell Mullen. Behind are offices for the Director, the Consultant and the Secretary of the Director. Space is also provided here for the desk of the Library Assistant in charge of ordering. In the reading room is located the Hispanic Desk, with the assistant in charge of the room. Along one side are a series of alcoves housing the Reference Collection and the Hispanic Catalogue. Other members of the staff are housed elsewhere. On deck A, Studies 44, 46, and 47 are occupied by members of the Research Staff (see chart). The North Conference room of Deck A is occupied by the personnel of the Hispanic Catalogue. On Deck 29 the Senior Research Assistant has a study where reference files are kept. Te Annex Studies 146 and 147 are occupied by the Assistant Director, his secretary, and the Archive of Hispanic Culture Assistant. This arrangement is considered temporary.

2. The Collections

    The collection of the Hispanic Foundation is housed immediately adjacent to the Hispanic Room and on portions of Decks 28 and 29 (see chart). The books in the Hispanic stacks which now number approximately 100,000 are devoted primarily to the literature, history, and travel of Spain, Portugal and Latin America. They include the following classifications:

    DP    all

    DS    651-689

    PC    801-end

    PQ     6001-end

    F 1201-1440

    F 1458-1630

    F 1660-1860

    F 1892-2130

    F 2152-2350

    F 2501-end

    There is also a collection of some 1000 reference books in the fields of Hispanic literature, biography, history, and geography adjacent to the Hispanic Room. The Foundation houses also a special collection on the history of Puerto Rico presented by Miss Alice Gould to the Library of Congress in memory of three Puerto Rican historians. This material has not yet been catalogued. In Study 146 of the Annex is housed a collection of some 5000 photographs and slides of Portuguese and Latin American art comprising the Archive of Hispanic Culture.

    This division does not keep a charge of books borrowed from it. Those that are to be removed from the building are charged out at the desk in the main reading room. A careful record, however, is kept of all Hispanic periodicals taken out, one charge being filed under the name of the borrower and another under the name of the periodical.

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A. Intramural Services

1. To government. The Hispanic Foundation performs daily service to employees of other government agencies dealing with Latin America. They come in person either (a) to consult books, and in this case are served by members of the Hispanic Reading Room staff or (b) to consult members of the administrative or research staff or (c) to consult photographs, films, and information in the Archive of Hispanic Culture.

2. To the public. The Hispanic Foundation has on the average some 20 readers per day who come to consult books in the Hispanic Reading Room and belong to the general public. For their service the assistant in charge of the room stands ready to interpret the Hispanic Catalogue, to aid in the selecting of books and maintains a vertical file of magazine articles and special pamphlets for their use. As in the above category, other members of the staff and the Archive of Hispanic Culture are consulted.

3. To other units of the Library of Congress. The Hispanic Foundation receives Hispanic reference requests from the Reference Department, requests for information from the Divisions of Fine Arts, Music Aeronautics and others and particularly the Latin American section of the Division of Special Information. The members of its staff are called upon to make translations from or into Spanish, Portuguese, and French and to draft letters in the first two languages for the offices of the Librarian and the Acting Librarian. Members of the Catalogue Divisions frequently call on the Foundation’s specialists in Spanish and Portuguese for aid in checking titles and preparing entries.

B. Extramural Services

1. To government. There is a large service of telephone requests for information on Hispanic subjects between the Hispanic desk and government agencies interested in Latin America and Europe. These requests often involve the preparation of detailed bibliographies and are considered with written reference requests. Spanish and Portuguese translations are made from time to time for the members of Congress and the Hispanic Desk maintains a special bibliographical service on Latin American information for their offices. Other special services are rendered to War Agencies.

2. To the public. Many reference requests are received daily either through the Reference Department or other divisions of the Library or come directly to the Hispanic Foundation or its individual staff members, especially the Director, Assistant Director, and Curator-Consultant. Since these and other members of the Hispanic Foundation personnel are recognized authorities in their respective fields, they are frequently consulted by their colleagues in the universities and learned societies of this country and Latin America and Europe. Not only are their opinions sought on material in the collections of the Library, but also on their own work. A great many requests for assistance are received from schools, clubs, and societies interested in Latin America and these are weighed carefully as to how much time their replies deserve. In addition there is a good deal of material to be sent officially to the institutions and individuals of Latin America either bearing on our studies of Latin America or material on North America which is needed there. This applies in a lesser degree to Spain and Portugal.The members of the staff frequently lecture on their Hispanic specialties at universities, annual meetings, clubs, etc.

3. To other libraries. The Hispanic Foundation maintains close contacts with other libraries in this country, assisting them with materials in its collections and procuring photographs, Photostats and microfilms. It maintains close touch with the A.L.A. and is of service to it in its program related to Latin America. It receives and orients Latin American librarians coming to work and study in the Library of Congress. It maintains direct touch with most of the libraries of Latin America, many of whose directors and specialists are known personally to the Hispanic Foundation’s staff. Publications are constantly being sent to them on a variety of subjects. Finally, there is a close association with the Hispanic Society of New York which has first call on the Hispanic Foundation’s books for a two-week period immediately after they are catalogued.

C. Other Service Activities

1. Development of new tools

a. The Hispanic Catalogue

As an aid to readers in the Hispanic Reading Room and to scholars in general, the Hispanic Foundation is preparing as a special project a general catalogue of the Hispanic Holdings of the Library of Congress for installation in two alcoves off its Reading Room. This catalogue, dictionary in character, will include not only the collections housed in the Hispanic Foundation and adjacent to it, but those Hispanic items located in all other sections of the library. It is estimated that it will contain some 300,000 cards of printed items. Later it is hoped, card for other types of material can be entered—especially photographs, manuscripts, sheet music.
The project has been financed by special funds—partly from a Rockefeller Foundation grant and partly from the fund for maintenance of t he Hispanic Room. It will be completed by December 31, 1942. After that responsibility for maintenance of the catalogue will rest with the assistant in charge of the Reading Room.

b. The Archive of Hispanic Culture

Under the direction of the Assistant Director who acts as Keeper of this Archive a collection of photographs, slides and other material relating to Latin American and Portuguese art is being built. There is an Assistant Keeper whose salary is paid through funds secured by means of the Interdepartmental Committee of the Department of State whose duty it is to assist the Assistant Director in the acquisition and maintenance of this material. At the present time the Archive contains some 3000 photographs and 2000 slides. This material is acquired principally through gift, and deposit. All records are handled through the Gift Desk of the Division of Accessions and photographs and accessioned there. All this material is being increasingly used by the public—schools, universities, museums, clubs, writers, publishers (Special memorandum on the history of this archive available).

c. Bibliographical and Other Publications

    i. In connection with the above mentioned archive a Guide to the Art of Latin America is being prepared by the keepers. This Guide will consist of a selective critical biography plus sections devoted to the public and private collections in Latin America and here, having examples of Latin American art, photographic archives, schools of art, institutions, murals in Latin America. Money for publication is assigned by the Inter-departmental Committee.

    ii. Guide to Latin American Periodicals Current in the Library of Congress.  This is being compiled by a senior research assistant on Rockefeller funds. It will contain between 1000 and 1500 items each listed with its title, history, director’s name, present address, and a brief description and critical estimate. A preliminary mimeographed version has already appeared and been widely circulated in Latin America for corrections and additions.

    iii. Investigations in Progress in the United States in the Field of Latin American Humanistic and Social Science Studies. A guide of 263 pages prepared by the same Senior Research Assistant and issued in mimeographed form. It contains the names of the investigators, their addresses, ages, previous works on the subject, and current undertakings.

    iv. Handbook of Latin American Studies.  This is an annual general critical biography of books and articles published all over the world on most aspects of Latin American culture. The Handbook, the 7th volume of which is soon to appear, is a semi-official publication of the Library, financed through money from the Committee on Latin American Studies of the American Council of Learned Societies. The editor-in-chief of the Handbook is one of the senior research assistants of the Hispanic Foundation. The Director was formerly its editor-in-chief The Assistant Director contributes a section on Brazilian Art.

    v. A series of annotated bibliographies of special disciplines known as the "Hispanic Foundation Bibliographical Series." These are to be issues in mimeograph form. The first of these has already appeared—Latin American Belles-Lettres in English Translation, a Selective and Annotated Guide. By James A. Granier, Washington, 1942.

2. Public Relations

The Hispanic Foundation staff does a good deal in connection with the “Good Neighbor Policy of the United States Government.” The Director and Assistant Director have been consulted on the persons to be brought from Latin America as guests of the Department of State and through the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, they have helped arrange their itineraries and special visits and performed special services for them. They have served on committees of a national character, have spoken, and published widely on the subject of Latin American studies.

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Divisional Procedures and Methods

A. Book Selection

1. Principles of Selection

a. Purchase

Since the establishment of the Huntington Fund in 1926, approximately two thousand recently published volumes have been added annually. Purchase is made on the basis of a detailed analysis of present collections. The members of the staff are specialists and are responsible for recommending purchases in their fields. The Curator is in charge of Spanish literature primarily, the Director of Spanish American history, and the Assistant Director, Portuguese and Brazilian publications, especially those on the fine arts. Other persons have been added to the staff by means of a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to analyze the collections. Thus the Hispanic Foundation has the part time services of a specialist in South American literature, of another in the economic literature of Brazil and Spanish America and the services of a specialist in current Hispanic periodicals and bibliography. A reference assistant is in charge of coordinating the ordering. It is his duty to see that these specialists have access to all publishers’ and other catalogues that are pertinent to the field and to search for reviews and notices of publications in periodicals and newspapers. Suggestions are also sought from scholars and persons visiting the Hispanic Foundation. The recommendations of these specialists go to the Assistant in Charge of the Huntington Desk in the Division of Accession where a search is made to see if the items recommended are already in the library or are on order. If they are not, order cards are made out at the Huntington Desk. The purchase of books published before 1932 (the 10 year period set by the terms of the Huntington grant) has been implemented by the allocation to the Hispanic Foundation of funds for the purpose by the Reference Librarian.

b. Exchange

After the order cards for purchases have been made out by the Division of Accessions they are carefully scrutinized by the Director of the Hispanic Foundation in search of items published officially by Hispanic governments or local authorities. Those items are then sought by exchange through the Division of Documents.

It is hoped that official interchange of publications between the libraries, universities, cultural institutes and other organizations of Latin America will be greatly extended through the use of the Librarian’s Fund for interchange with the other American Republics. The Hispanic Foundation is thus able to answer deserving requests for Photostats or microfilms of the material in its collections and copies of cards in its catalogues.

B. Gifts

Gifts of publications from institutions and individuals have been greatly stimulated by the official travels of the Director, Assistant Director, and Curator of the Hispanic Foundation. The articles and pamphlets of living authors are often published in periodicals and little known newspapers frequently no longer in existence. To purchase the back issues of such journals is often impossible and it is not generally possible to acquire enough current numbers to have a separate copy of each writer’s article. The Hispanic Foundation, therefore, has decided to adopt the policy of requesting writers in Hispanic countries to send copies of all their works to the Library of Congress, where they will become integral parts of the Hispanic collection. With a view to encouraging living authors to send their publications to the Library, a file of several thousand names and addresses of authors all over the Hispanic world has been prepared. On the basis of this list and of suggestions made from other sources, handsome printed forms in English, Spanish, and Portuguese are sent out requesting publications or seeking information as to where they may be purchased. Similar form sin the three languages acknowledging gifts are also distributed and an effort is made to list each gift separately. For the keeping of this file and the correct handling of the requests and acknowledgments the half time services of an assistant in the Division of Accessions Gift Desk are available.

C. Catalogue and Indexes

The Hispanic Catalogue (see III, C, 1).

D. Maintenance

1. Labeling

    Books bought on the Huntington Fund have a special plate inside. All books assigned to the Hispanic collections carry the red and white label of the Hispanic Foundation on their spine.

E. Publications

The Hispanic Catalogue (see III, C, 1).

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