LIBRARIAN PERSPECTIVES: Lucía Brito, Biomedical Research Institute, National Autonomous University (UNAM), Mexico City
[True, we had said that this interview would feature Shirley Ainsworth. But one additional librarian answered our questions with plenty of enthusiasm, and we thought this post could not wait.]
The largest public library network in Latin America, 135 libraries at UNAM, and a project to acquire electronic resources are some of the themes discussed by Lucía Brito Ocampo, Coordinator at the “Dionisio Nieto” library of the Biomedical Research Institute (Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas), at the Mexico City campus of National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM).
Q:What is the role of libraries in your country?
A: Discussing libraries in Mexico a very extensive subject, but I can say that for many years efforts have been made to promote books, reading and libraries. It is no small feat that our National Public Library Network is considered the largest in Latin America, with 7,427 public libraries. I have to highlight Biblioteca México, which opened in 1946 and is housed in a beautiful building that was declared a historical monument. Also, Biblioteca Vasconcelos, which opened in 2006 and is considered as one of the more representative and modern library buildings in the world. Both are compounds with ample spaces dedicated to forming, informing and entertaining users through books and various cultural activities.
On the other hand, and just to talk about the space where my work unfolds, UNAM has in its 135 libraries an invaluable treasure, as well as the electronic resources that it houses. This thanks to the sensibility of the authorities which have recognized how valuable these precincts are.
Q: How does a typical work day look for you?
A: After a while of physical activity, en route to the library, I think of my to-do’s from the previous day. I arrive directly to the office, but immediately afterwards I like heading to the service desk and to the collections area to check that everything is in order.
When I return, it is a must to check my email (I like to answer user’s requests quickly or redirect the information to the right person, to solve each requirement as soon as possible). Once I have answered every message, to the to-do’s: I mark priorities or immediate activities, be it that I work on them personally or hand them to the people that collaborate with me. I trust them very much, and I always like to acknowledge their work, because I know they are an important part of our service quality.
Q: Does your library have a special Project you want to talk about?
A: We have a joint project in the library, with other health and bio-medicine libraries from UNAM. We call it Bios Group (Grupo Bios). There was a need which a group of library coordinators saw as an opportunity. Fifteen years ago, a strong demand from researchers started, requesting resources in electronic format, and the only way of acquiring them was in a collaborative manner. So this group of librarian enthusiasts made their first purchase, considering: that the resources were of interest to the group, and the purchase in electronic format was in very clear conditions. Multi-user access, perpetuity, stable and clear platform for the end user, and that purchases were made through an acquisition.
Each year we have been considering a new purchase project. From the proposals, we make a selection according to the requirements of the group members. It was always made with the consent and support from university authorities. They have supported everything in this project and provided us with the facilities to make it happen.
The Bios group has managed to develop joint digital collections in the areas of bio-medicine and health, available to the complete university community. It has also provided support in the analysis of information sources in the biomedical area. These actions have allowed us to optimize in a substantial manner our financial resources.
Q: What do you think will be the role of your library in the next 10 years?
A: I want to think that it will be relevant. However, it is a great challenge for the library personnel. We are being asked for new skills and competencies in this environment of digital resources, where we need to know the users and the community we have very well. Quality and service must stand out, even more than the physical collections we might have.
Q: Can you imagine a library without bookshelves? (Yes or no, and why)
A: For lovers of the paper book, it is difficult to think of a library without bookshelves. However, I believe that we will be able to see these kind of libraries very soon. Specially in the academic environment, and specifically in research. I know of a library at UNAM that stopped acquiring print a few years ago. With the help of an excellent librarian and with the support of a committed engineer it provides the information needs of its community in a small space. But I do not imagine other libraries, such as public libraries (where paper books are the essence and the delight of children and adults) to be like this.
Q: What would you like to ask to the next librarian we interview?
A: What is the biggest challenge we face as information professionals towards the library of the future?