Friday, July 10, 2009

Dispatches from Germany

Dispatches from Germany
So far we feel right at home. The luggage came off the conveyer; the Budget rental car desk was handy and efficient; the car park opened directly to an expressway system that seems to go everywhere. But, wait, wind farms dot every horizon, their giant propellers slowly turning in the breeze. And there is no urban sprawl. Grain fields and pasturage reach right up to most city limits; even Berlin has yet to grow past its perimeter highway.

My wife and I are beginning our trip with a visit to an AFS student whom we hosted in Ithaca. Ten years later he is a medical student in Greiswald, on the Baltic coast. So we spent yesterday driving the diagonal from Frankfurt to the far northeast of the country. Right now we’re trying to shake the effects of jetlag and too many hours behind the wheel. Before I close this first entry, some basics.
“A” is for autobahns, Germany’s unbelievable superhighway network. They’re an Interstate system, only maintained, and along with the Volkswagen, Adolph Hitler’s only positive legacy. Although speed limits, 120 km/hour, are posted, don’t even think of getting into the passing lane at a speed less than 85 mph and don’t stay there unless you are willing to drive a hundred. “B” is for bicycle; every man, woman and child has one. Germans ride them all over, most without helmets. “C,” well, I can’t think of a “c” word now except “cansado.” But this will pass.

Not wanting to endanger my retired status, I have stayed away from most of the SALALM, but I will serve as your roving reporter, offering updates from venues outside the IAI and the Martim.
I am lodging in a part of the city that was off limits when SALALM met here in 1986. In those days the city lived in the shadow of The Wall. Visitors were never far from it, and Berliners lived with the daily reality that they were never far from freedom or oppression. The Wall is down now, chewed into tiny bits recycled as road fill, but its legacy will be a long one. Even with the incredible reconstruction of the city strange anomalies remain—tram tracks ending in nowhere mark the route of the wall. Enormous apartment blocks still dot the horizon, and no amount of paint and plaster will erase the memory of who built them. There is, apparently, a certain nostalgia for the good old days among some former East Germans. But I suspect that this is disingenuous. No one would want to return to a time when neighbors spied on neighbors, when consumer goods were frightfully scarce and when families were forcibly separated by the force of politics.

Since my last post, I have thought of some “c” words. The first is “c”rane, the tall metal ones. They are everywhere, even in these tough economic times, rebuilding the city. The second is “children.” They’re everywhere. Apparently, Berlin has the highest birthrate in Europe. I’ve amused myself by photographing children in strollers.

No one spending time here would fail to notice what a melting pot Berlin has become. The Turkish community is to Berlin what the Mexican community is to Los Angeles, the largest outside their countries of origin. Yesterday we were chauffeured by a Palestinian from Gaza and served by a Kosovar waiter. Each was expecting a child, the Kosovar, twins.

“D” is for dogs; Berlin is full of them, and in a strange contradiction of German rectitude, Berliners habitually walk them off-leash. Giants and toys, riding in bicycle baskets and trotting beside runners, sitting under restaurant tables, openly defecating in parks, all well-fed and collared, dogs are everywhere.
As another legacy of the Cold War, Berlin is filled with what are now overlapping cultural institutions. There are doppelganger opera companies, national libraries, and symphonies currently living separate lives but headed toward shotgun mergers. What brings this to mind is Sunday night’s trip to the Opera Komishe, a beautiful 19th century hall in the former East Berlin. Six SALAMists and dependents went to hear Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann. I am a great fan of the music—it lives on my iPod—but I had never seen it performed, and I was a little let down. The staging combined 1930s Weimar decadence with gangster Chicago and Olympia first appears as a dominatrix. Get the picture? I considered closing my eyes to the spectacle, but with a full-day’s touristing under my belt, that would have meant nodding off.
Another cultural duplication, if culture can ever be redundant, is Berlin’s vast array of museums. In the partition, the Commies got Museum Insul, three 19th century buildings dedicated to the glories of antiquity and German science. We saw the famous reconstructions of the Pergamon altar and Babylon’s gate, excavated and removed by German archaeologists nearly 150 years ago. The audio guide, recorded in rich, Oxfordian English studiously avoided the issue of cultural patrimony, but you have to wonder. On the western side of town, corporate and individual donors created new spaces for their collections, among the most notable is the Bergurren in Charlottenburg, with its remarkable collection of Picassos.

“E” ist für eis, cream, that is. It’s been hot in Berlin, and ice cream is just the ticket. It’s served everywhere and consumed copiously especially by children (see “c,” above). I have sampled widely and narrowed my favorites to the many flavors of chocolate concocted for German palates and strawberry a fruit now in season.

Last night the local organizers and book dealers really outdid themselves at the reception. The venue was nothing less than the Gemaldegalerie, a museum lit only by filtered sunlight. Here Berliners have lovingly reunited a collection of medieval and early modern paintings that were separated for half a century by politics. We marveled at the display of so much richness in a single, rather small, space.
The weather for the conference has been a mix of sun, clouds and rain, but on Tuesday, the haze lifted to reveal the east side of the Brandenburg Gate as a rich blonde-colored rectangle, topped by the Reichstag’s glittering dome. Nearby the Monument to European Jews, several hundred black granite rectangles aligned to suggest a cemetery cast dark shadows across its grounds.

Berlin must have one of the most efficient transportation systems on the planet. Bicycles roll along sidewalk lanes created for them. Electric trolleys work the crowds in East Berlin; buses and the Metro (UBahn) serve the West. Mass transit is supplemented by a ubiquitous fleet of taxis, mostly capacious Mercedes sedans. My wife and I have learned to reach most of the sites of interest by mounting two nearly-connected systems, the M-1 trolley that runs from the North Mitte to Humboldt University and the #100 bus that begins in the Museum Insul and runs along west toward Tiergarten. Somehow Berlin has also discovered an alchemy that makes rush hour disappear. A cab driver offered a not-altogether-satisfactory felicity about staggering office hours.

I can’t help but reflect on the passage of time between the SALALMs of 1986 and 2009. In those 13 years the city has undergone a remarkable transformation, reflecting the reunion of the modern German state. What the tourist sees is a tribute to ingenuity and determination, and the transformation is ongoing. Visitors in the coming years will see even more of the ongoing project to make Berlin a single city, but don’t wait for the next SALALM!
Your faithful correspondent has now left Berlin. I’m writing from the Rhineland.

Before I sign off, I want to add one more “a,” to my alphabetical list. Altakrueger and his staff did a fantastic job. Thanks, so much.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Looking For (Latin American) Art Books in Berlin (July 8, 2009)

After the Townhall Meeting we had one more coffee break to enjoy. We were reminded (and invited) to return for the Executive Board Meeting where important matters are always discussed, often times it lasts as long as the LAMP meetings of the first night!

But, I managed to escape (unnoticed) and wonder off to visit an art bookshop that I had seen on Sunday but it was closed at the time. It was quite big and I was not going to miss this chance. One of the books I saw on display that day was not even listed in OCLC's Worldcat (Dream[s?] of Solentiname), so there must be other treasures there. And indeed there were, here's a list that might be of interest to us all:

Gibson, R. (2005). Brazil: As origins visuais da cultura. Bologna: Damiani.

Griffioen, P. (1999). Cuba: Doblegada pero no quebrada = gebogen niet gebroken = bent not broken. Amsterdam: Focus Pub.

Miller, S. (2008). Imagine Cuba: 1999-2007. Milano: Charta.

Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Peter und Irene Ludwig Stiftung, & Muzeĭ Li︠u︡dviga. (2002). Kunst aus Kuba: Sammlung Ludwig = Art from Cuba : the Ludwig Collection. [Bad Breisig]: Palace Editions.

Testino, M. (2007). Lima, Peru: Featuring the work of over 100 Peruvian artists. Bologna: Damiani.

Lancrenon, S., & Marzloff, S. (2008). Cuba libre Emmanuelle Béart. München: Schirmer Mosel.

Fabry, A. (2008). Fotografía latinoamericana: Colección Anna Gamazo de Abelló : una selección = a selection : 1895-2008. México, D.F.: : Editorial RM.

Álvarez, A. (2008). Citámbulos Mexico City: Journey to the Mexican megalopolis = Viaje a la megalópolis mexicana = Reise in die mexikanische Magalopole. Berlin: Jovis.

Mossinger, Ingrid, Flieg, Hans, Merklinger, Martina, & Metz, Katharina. (2009). Hans Gunter Flieg Documentary Photography from Brazil 1940-1970. Kerber Verlag.

Kulturhuset (Stockholm, Sweden). (2008). Nuevas historias: A new view of Spanish photography and video art. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz.

Venancio Filho, P., & Gunnarsson, A. (2008). Time & place: Rio de Janeiro 1956-1964. [Stockholm]: Moderna Museet.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Collection Development Strategies in Smaller Latin American Collections

I just got out of the panel we'd all been waiting for, "Getting More from Less: Collection Development Strategies in Smaller Latin American Collections," and it did not disappoint. Orchid organized a great panel with Jesus Alonso-Regalado presenting on creative ways of collecting via book fairs and collaborative projects, Agnieszka Czeblakow presenting on Emory University's experiences using the OCLC collection analysis tool to help fill gaps in Latin American History, and Linda Russo from Latin American Book Store giving the vendor's perspective on collection development challenges given the current budget situation.

Most of us know Jesus as being extraordinarily creative in his work at SUNY Albany, following his innovations such as Librarian with a Latte, and so I looked forward to his presentation in particular: "Enriching Collections with Limited funds: Getting the Most out of Book Fair Acquisitions and Cooperative Projects." After seeing how his pre-planning for the Guadalajara Book Fair resulted in more dollar savings than represented by his entire Latin American Studies collections budget, I highly recommend that you all speak to him before going yourselves! I know that I will! Jesus also discussed the results of a collaborative collection development project between SUNY Albany and SUNY Binghamton for Puerto Rican materials. Those of you in LANE have heard about this project before, and it was good to see some additional data about how the project has continued, even after Martha Kelehan's move to Tufts from SUNY Binghamton. The project has resulted in the combined acquisition of 33% of all Puerto Rican monographs offered by Barlovento.

I was also excited to see how Phil McLeod and Agnieszka Czeblakow at Emory successfully used the new OCLC collection analysis tool to generate lists of materials that had not been acquired by the university, using these lists to ask for purchase recommendations from faculty. The work appeared to be tedious, but ultimately worthwhile. It was suggested that bibliographers enlist some assistants to help with the analysis for a project of this type.

Finally, Linda Russo gave an overview of the changes in collection development strategies among libraries that she has seen as a vendor. Particularly helpful were her comments on the difficulties of collecting for universities given the difference between academic dialogues taking place in North America and Europe and those taking place Latin America and the Caribbean. The materials published there do not necessarily correspond to those materials desired by faculty.

Overall a great panel, and I look forward to reading Gayle's write-up in the newsletter.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

SALALM’s Opening Day

The opening reception for SALALM’s annual conference in Berlin saw about 15-20 attendees from the previous meeting in 1986 also held in Berlin.

Some things have not changed much since then: the LAMP meeting lasted more than 2 hours. But other changes have taken place: there was no forum to discuss emerging technologies and now the Electronic Resources Subcommittee has become one of the most popular gatherings on the 1st day of the conference.

Victor Federico Torres (University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras) received the Jose Toribio Medina Award, given each year by SALALM to the best reference work published by one of its members.

Attending were also about 20 members from REDIAL, the European counterpart to SALALM which had its origins at the 1986 meeting when colleagues from Europe saw the need to have a forum for Latin American Studies information professionals to exchange ideas. REDIAL was celebrating its 20th anniversary and its “Asamblea” coincided with SALALM’s annual meeting.

At a joint afternoon session more than 30 members from each group discussed possible ways of cooperating (both formal and informal) in areas of shared concerns: providing access to information from/about Latin America in all its multiple formats.

The day ended with the “Fiesta de Libreros” held at the Gemaldegalerie where we had the run of the museum and were able to enjoy multilingual guided tours of the varied rich visual treasures of the Old Masters Gallery.

The traditional “Rifa de Enlace” was also held at the Fiesta gathering where many coveted “recuerdos” from Latin America were raffled away. The many souvenirs were donated by dealers as a way to raise monies for the Enlace Fund. Since 1986 more than 60 professionals from Latin America have been invited to take part in SALALM thanks to this endeavor which is about to celebrate its silver anniversary.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ibero-Amerikanische Institut

Here re a few pictures from the Ibero-Amerikanische Institut tour.

The Little Foxes

I should either be A) at the interlibrary cooperation meeting OR B) preparing for the Executive Board meeting, but instead I am here in the nerve center of the SALALM 54 conference, juicing up my laptop and blogging. Things have been going quite smoothly so far and I can take absolutely no credit for this. The Berlin local arrangements team runs a tight ship and it seems like they have thought of everything. I think many of us are starting to think they can order up the weather. Today has been much cooler and sunny--perfect weather for sitting in committee meetings!

Following up on Adan's post, we had a good LAMP meeting in the lovely Bolivar room at the IAI. They graciously held a reception for us afterwards (big incentive to finish the meeting). We had a look at the wonderful exhibit they have prepared !Al pueblo argentino de 2010! Culturas en movimiento en el Rio de la Plata. (sorry can't make accents on this computer). And some wine and empanadas, along with German sandwiches.

And enjoy a nice photo of our new members orientation. Yes, I can confirm that the Latin Lover was the drink of choice at our reception.

So where do the foxes come into the picture? On the way back to our hotel each night, I've been seeing little creatures that I now know are foxes. At first I thought they were jet lag induced hallucinations but I have independent confirmation that they are indeed foxes. I've never seen them in an urban setting like this. We are just blocks from Berlin's Tiergarten, which literally means animal garden. It was laid out in the 18th century as a hunting ground so perhaps this all makes sense. Berlin can be a magical place indeed. . . Back to business

Prelude to a LAMP Meeting

July 3, 2009
Roberto Delgadillo (UC Davis) and I enjoyed a Berlin city tour from a low budget and quite entertaining group. The double decker bus had no air conditioning and when we were caught by an unexpected “chubasco” in front of the Branderburg Gate, the lower deck started to leak! But the tour guide and the driver were quite friendly and when the driver heard us speaking in Spanish, he made sure we noticed the Mexican Embassy building, which is quite interesting indeed.

We arrived back at the hotel on time to attend the much dreaded LAMP meeting, which has traditionally been scheduled for the first night of the conference. It did not disappoint this time around, not only did it last the usual three hours!!!! But the proposals were certainly varied and of great interest: from digitizing 20th century women’s journals from Brazil to cataloging Bolivian colonial documents. All of which touched of topics of interest to SALALM but also indicated LAMP’s original mission to preserve rare/unique/brittle materials as it moves into integrating new technologies and now considers digitization projects, all in concert with its original mission to provide access to rich resources in need of long term preservation.

After the meeting ended, our hosts at the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut treated the 36 attendees to a reception at the Institute’s library main floor where we also enjoyed their newly mounted exhibit Al pueblo argentine de 2010! Culturas en movimiento en el Rio de la Plata!

Adan Griego, Stanfoard University Libraries.

Berlin and SALALM

The trip here was long and frustrating but Berlin is really interesting. I am staying in a hostel called Pfefferbett, which I can recommend, and now I am using the free computers in the breakfast room aka bar to write this. The committee meetings yesterday were interesting and frank... I think everyone feels free to express themselves in this group. The hotel is about 4 km or more from here so I walked yesterday and got my exercise... maybe today I will figure out the subway. I promise to take some pictures today and post...
Yesterday I saw the Tiergarten, which was once a hunting preserve for the Kurfurst, some kind of prince, and gradually turned into something similar to Central Park, with statues of kings and queens. I saw a hippy mom, barefoot, with her little child, about one year old, and lots of other parents with kids on bikes. It is a good city for cycling, with lots of bike paths, and bicycle rickshaws. I even saw what looked like newlyweds on a two+person rickshaw, followed by a couple other rickshaws carrying the other members of the wedding party. The bride wore white and carried flowers and had a big smile on her face.
I alo tried to visit the Musical Instrument museum, but when we got there the man at the door told us that it was too close to closing time, and I will have to try again another day. It is close to the Maritim Hotel.
Dining possibilities are good here and food is better than I remember from my student days in (west) Germany back in the olden days... a large group of us went to a Croatian restaurant and had schaschlik (shishkabob) and schnitzel and the best beer... It.s true, the beers in Berlin are great.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

"Latin Lover" seemed to have been the drink of choice at the New Members and ENLACE Happy Hour

Friday, July 3, 2009

Book Burning, Berlin

This morning I started exploring Berlin, and one of the sites I wanted to make sure I visited was the memorial for the book burning event that took place on May 10, 1933, when students burned over 25,000 books considered "un-German". It took me a while to find it, and it was only after I asked around that I figured out why I couln't find it; a large tent for Berlin's Fashion Week is sitting right over the memorial (yes, lovely contrast there). Still, I kept asking around and found out that the memorial is still open to the public, through a small side entrance.

Here are a couple of pictures I took there.

Esta mañana he comenzado a explorar Berlín, y uno de los sitios que quería asegurarse de visitar es el monumento a la quema de libros que tuvo lugar el 10 de mayo de 1933, cuando los estudiantes quemaron más de 25.000 libros considerados "anti-alemanes". Me tomó un tiempo encontrarlo, y fue sólo después de preguntar que me di cuenta por que no lo veia, encima hay una tienda grandisima donde se esta organizando la Semana de la Moda de Berlín (sí, lindo el contraste). Igual segui preguntando y descubri que el lugar todavia sigue abierta al público, a través de una pequeña entrada lateral.

He aquí un par de fotos que tomé allí.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Willkommen in Berlin!

Greetings from Berlin! I arrived around midday Wednesday and am probably one of the first overseas attendees to arrive. I had a delayed but uneventful flight, direct from New York. At the baggage claim I discovered that Tina Gross was on my flight, but that was the only Salalmer@ I encountered today.

Here's the entrance to our hotel, in the lovely Kulturforum district. The air is fragrant with some kind of blossom. I spent most of my day settling in and getting organized. I took a walk over to the nearby Potsdamer Platz. There are several shops and restaurants about 10 minutes walk from the hotel. I will be helping our colleagues at the IAI Library with conference preparations tomorrow (although they are so organized they probably do not need my help!). I hope to run into some arriving Salalm members on Thursday and Friday. It's warm here right now, highs near 80 F but it will be a few degrees cooler after Sunday, according to the forecasts.

Hasta pronto, pamela