Latin American and Caribbean Studies Collection Development Policy

Bobst Library, New York University
Angela Carreño, Librarian for Latin American and Caribbean Studies


Bobst Library's Latin American and Caribbean studies collection supports the academic program of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), which offers an interdisciplinary master's degree, a joint M.A. degree in Journalism and a certificate program in museum studies. CLACS has a consortial arrangement with Columbia University's Institute for Iberian and Latin American Studies which includes the cross-registration of students, joint summer institutes and joint public events. The Center integrates the resources of New York University for the study of inter-American affairs, stressing the study of contemporary relations-- the emerging social, cultural, economic, and political links between and among the Americas. The future priorities of CLACS include strengthening and expanding programs in Caribbean Studies, and the development of closer ties with the professional schools.

The collection also supports Latin American and Caribbean area studies course concentrations for doctoral programs in anthropology, cinema studies, comparative literature, business administration, economics, history, politics, sociology, and Spanish and Portuguese languages and literatures.

Increasingly, in recent years, the collection has developed in response to the needs of issue based, inter-disciplinary studies and closer interaction between CLACS and the professional schools. Issue based structures within FAS and/or GSAS include departments or programs in Africana Studies, Ethnographic Film and Video, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Metropolitan Studies, Peace and Global Policy Studies, and Women's Studies. Recent global issues attracting cross-disciplinary interest and transnational perspectives include cultural studies, human rights, urban life, migration studies, environmental studies, post-colonial studies and communication studies. Several Centers will be the focus of significant future, on-campus trends in cross-disciplinary research and teaching: 1) The King Juan Carlos I Center for the Study of Spain and the Spanish-speaking world; 2) the Center for Media, Culture, and History; and 3) the NYU Institutes for Advanced International Studies.

Departmental interests are as follows:

  • History

    Latin American and Caribbean history from 1492 to the present. All countries are of interest for historical research and course work; emphasis has, historically been on Brazil and the Caribbean. Recent interests include the Andean region and the African Diaspora.

  • Politics

    Political institutions, development, reform, revolution; U.S. corporate and governmental policy; common markets and collective trading groups; urban politics; Latin American and Caribbean migration to the U.S. and Western Europe, and communities of Latin American and Caribbean nationals in the U.S. and Western Europe; emphasis is on the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico.

  • Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures

    (See separate collection development statement) - Spanish-American and Brazilian authors, literary criticism, literary movements, and Latin American civilization.

  • Linguistics

    Urban Hispanic and/or Afro-Latin American diasporic sociolinguistic varieties, bilingualism, indigenous and creole languages.

  • Economics

    Urban economics, international trade and finance, the political economy of north-south relations, Latin American economic theory, theoretical studies on economic development in Latin America.

  • Business

    Finance, management and organizational behavior, and marketing, supporting practical research on the Latin American debt, emerging markets, financial markets, investment analysis, political risk, the business culture, consumer behavior and environmental resource management.

  • Anthropology

    Pre- and post-Conquest political, social and cultural anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean, migration studies, gender studies, Caribbean linguistic anthropology, urban anthropology, and ethnographic film and video.

  • Cinema Studies

    History of national cinemas, filmmakers, ethnographic film and video, documentary film and video, film and television industries, and film criticism; the emphasis is on Cuba, Mexico, and Brazil.

  • Performance Studies

    Theater, dance, celebration, ritual and popular entertainment, including for example cricket, carnival, soccer, feminist theater projects, calypso, cockfighting, soap opera, comics, cuisine, voodoo, and political campaigns.

  • Sociology

    Structure and dynamics of contemporary Latin American societies, covering sociological theory (major Latin American theorists, themes and debates); power and inequality (social stratification, gender relations, race relations, social movements, and political sociology); social institutions (kinship, class, political parties, church, schools, the army, family, labor organizations etc.); and social groups (women, blacks, immigrants, children, indigenous groups, elite groups, peasant groups, etc.)

  • Music

    Performance practice; music industry; music history, biography, and criticism; popular song and dance music (tango, rumba, reggae, samba, tropicalia, zouk, etc.)

  • Fine Arts

    Pre-Columbian art and archeology; material culture and folk art; major artists and museums; reproductions of historically significant prints and photographs; aesthetics of cities; public policy; art history; and, art exhibit catalogs.

  • Comparative Literature

    In addition to Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures (see separate collection development statement), non-hispanic Caribbean diasporic authors, literary criticism, literary movements, and cultural studies.


  1. Language

    Materials are acquired in Spanish, English, Portuguese, and, more selectively, French, German and Dutch. Codices, grammars, etc. of indigenous languages are acquired very selectively. English translations of titles in languages not collected are acquired when available and of scholarly interest.

  2. Geographical Areas

    All countries of Latin America and the Caribbean region are covered, although research trends and political events intensify collection effort for particular countries or regions at given times. Geographical areas emphasized are Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, the Caribbean and Central America. Latin American and Caribbean communities in the United States and Western Europe are of interest for migration and ethnic studies; emphasis is on the Caribbean diaspora.

  3. Chronological Periods

    Emphasis is on all historical periods from European conquest to the present. The pre-Columbian period is of more limited interest in the Departments of Anthropology and History, and resources covering this period are acquired more selectively.

Types of Materials

  1. Included

    Monographs, monographic series, serials, proceedings, facsimiles, microforms, videos, music recordings, electronic media, multi-media, and Internet resources. Government documents, atlases, dissertations, scores, working papers, pamphlets, and ephemera are acquired on a more selective basis.

  2. Excluded

    Maps, textbooks and juvenilia.

Strengths & Weaknesses of the Collection

Collection development for Latin America and the Caribbean focuses primarily on the history, politics, international relations, social and economic conditions, literatures and languages of Latin America and the Caribbean. Historically, the strengths of the collection are literature and the political, economic and social history of Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Collecting is stronger in the humanities than in the social sciences.

The collection coverage for individual authors, literary criticism and literary movements is very good. The contemporary Brazilian fiction and poetry collection is noteworthy and serves as a resource for scholars throughout the metropolitan area. The collection in Caribbean history and literature, all language areas and the diaspora is steadily becoming a noteworthy collection. The audio-visual collection is nationally unique. Areas of relatively recent scholarly interest at NYU are currently being developed and strengthened: art, music, business, popular culture, migration studies, environmental studies and women's studies.

In 1982, the library started to implement blanket order acquisition plans with Latin American vendors. These plans currently cover Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Mexico, and the British Caribbean. Under the terms of these plans current imprints from various Latin American countries are automatically received at Bobst Library. These agreements have dramatically improved the coverage and timeliness of current imprints. The blanket order shipments are considerably augmented by firm orders generated by dealers' catalogs, publishers' catalogs, library acquistions' lists, bibliographies and review media.

The Business and Social Science/Documents Center hold many important resources for social science research on Latin America and the Caribbean. The United Nations and International Governmental Organizations Collection receives on deposit or standing order, the publications of the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America, the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the International Labor Office and the International Council for Migration. Most of these government documents do not appear in BobCat. The Center also has extensive microform collections covering historical and current socio-economic statistics.

The library offers a wide range of electronic resources, including remote and in-library access to the the Hispanic American Periodicals Index (HAPI), LADB (Latin American Database) and the Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS). The Library offers a wide range of commercial databases which contain Latin American information, including PAIS, the MLA Bibliography, F&S International, Ethnic Newswatch, and Dissertation Abstracts. The Library also has a Latin American Studies Resources Homepage. Multi-media, electronic text and electronic data on CD-ROM are collected very selectively. and, strategically, Since January 1993, the library has offered the academic community Latin American newsbroadcasts via satellite through SCOLA. SCOLA programming is available for viewing in the library as well as at other locations around the University where NYU-TV broadcasting is available. SCOLA programs may be recorded off-air for use in classrooms or by individual researchers.

Some of the collection weaknesses are as follows:

  1. government publications, except for population census material and statistical abstracts. The library relies on holdings at New York Public Library and LAMP. This will not change unless we agree to cooperate regionally.

  2. serials in general. There are historical gaps in history and literature which are impossible to fill, unless microform copies can be identified for purchase. Current subscriptiohns have been added on a very selective basis for the past ten years due to budgetary constraints.

  3. current news sources. The cost and difficulty of acquiring and processing newspapers and newsmagazines have resulted in limited holdings. In addition to the limited holdings the library relies on newspaper clipping services, the Latin American Newsletters, Global Newsbank, LADB, FBIS, and SCOLA. The library is currently working on a regional cooperative collecting agreement.

  4. Newspaper backfiles. The library currently relies on news clipping services, FBIS, regional holdings, CRL and LAMP. The library is considering adding a limited number of backfiles based on regional gaps, and cooperative collection agreements. So far the library has added Uno más Uno.

  5. current social and economic statistics. The library relies on the statistical publications of international organizations and a selection of Latin American statistical publications available on microform. The statistics are reported in these sources with two to three delays. The library may need to consider adding a selection of statistical abstracts in paper.

  6. preservation problems have contributed to the gaps in the library's Latin American collection. New titles from Latin America and the Caribbean are printed on poor quality paper which does not withstand heavy use and aging. The library is addressing the problem by routinely binding new material, and replacing brittle material with microfilm copy.

  7. Pre-1950 imprints. Retrospective collection assessment and development is a constant necessity to identify and, if possible fill lacunae. Important retrospective material is often reprinted, re-published in new editions, or microfilmed. It is very difficult, and, usually too costly to purchase and preserve original editions.

Resource Sharing

Numerous and complex factors such as the proliferation of research materials, lack of sufficient acquisitions funds and the physical deterioration of large portions of the collection have forced research libraries to recognize their inability to be entirely self-sufficient, and the need to rely on cooperative collection development and user referrals to other collections. Coordinated resource sharing makes it possible to offer Latin American scholars in the region, and specifically at New York University, a wider range of research material.

The logical and most important coordinating partner is Columbia University Libraries. In 1988 the two institutions established a Consortium for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, which has stimulated frequent contact between the bibliographers to coordinate, among other things, respective collection development policies. The two bibliographers actively develop collaborative projects that will increase the breadth and depth of Latin American holdings in the New York metropolitan area. Examples of formal agreements include sharing coverage of Latin American and Caribbean 2nd tier women writers; migrant communities in Europe; and Latin American Recorded Popular Music. Major purchasing, such as the recent acquisition of the Author Catalogues of the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid and the Archivo Biográfico de España, Portugal e Iberoamérica, is done collaboratively.

As participating member of the Latin American Northeast Library Consortium (LANE) , the Latin American Bibliographer meets with colleagues in the Northeast twice a year to discuss collection development issues. The other participating bibliographers are from NYPL, Columbia Univ. Rutgers Univ., Univ. Of Connecticut at Storrs, Univ. Of Mass., Univ. Of Pittsburg, Princeton Univ., Univ. of Pennsylvannia, Yale Univ., Brown Univ., Cornell Univ., and Harvard Univ. LANE is currently planning to coordinate, jointly identify and/or broaden the coverage of 1) current newspaper and newsweekly subscriptions; 2) historical backfiles of newspapers and newsweeklies; 3) financial statistical sources; 4) videos from and/or about Latin America; 5) business news sources; 6) telephone books; and 7) major microform sets.

The LANE group complements and extends the work of the Latin American Microform Project (LAMP), of which Bobst Library is a subscribing member. LAMP was founded in 1975 for the purpose of making available to scholars Latin American research materials in microformat, which would otherwise be unavailable. This includes materials which are inaccessible, in poor condition, or beyond the economic means of an individual institution. There are currently 33 member libraries, all of which have borrowing privileges for LAMP material housed at CRL's facilities. A meeting to report on projects-in-progress and to propose new projects is held once a year at SALALM.

Bobst Library's membership in the Center for Research Librarires is crucial for access to foreign dissertations; newspaper backfiles; British Foreign Office Microform Sets; and State Dept. Microform Sets.

The Library is a participant in the Latin American Demonstration Project of the AAU/ARL Global Resources Program together with 34 other libraries. Our participation requires 1) a commitment to provide access to selected Mexican and Argentine journals by maintaining subscriptions, providing timely ILL, and supplying contents pages for a journal database; and 2) A $7,000 comitment to Latin American Art Exhibit Catalogs.

Subjects & Collecting Levels

The following levels for geographical emphases apply toeach of the subjects listedbelow:
Mexico C C C
Central America: Belize, Guatemala, ElSalvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica,Panama B C C
Caribbeanregion B C D
Spanish-speaking: Puerto Rico, Cuba, DominicanRepublic
English-speaking, esp. Jamaica, Trinidad-Tobago
French-speaking, esp. Haiti
Guianas: Guyana, French Guiana,Surinam A A B
Andean region:Venezuela, Colombia,Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia,Chile B B C
La Plata region: Argentina
La Plata region: Uruguay
Brazil C C C
Paraguay A B B

LCClass Subjects ECS CCI DLC
AC-AZ, Z Reference materials, bibliographies(general for countries, specialized for subjectscollected) B C C
Language, linguistics, philology -- Spanish,Portuguese; indigenous languages,Creole B B B
PZ, PR, PS Literature -- works, history,criticism: Spanish, Portuguese, Caribbean English,French B C C
PN2309-2554 Theatre -- history, dramaticworks B B B
PN1993.5 Cinema and performingarts A B C
N, NA, NB, NC, ND, NE, NK, NX Art andarchitecture B B C
M, ML Music, music history, biography,ethnomusicology A A B
B, BL, BR, BR Philosophy and religioushistory A A/B B
F1201-3791 History -- intellectual, cultural,economic, political, social, religious, military;historiography B C C
HA, HB, HC, HD, HE, HF, HG, HN Economic historyand conidtions, demography,statistics B B/C C
E183.8, F 1418
Political history and government,political parties and movements; diplomatic relations with theU.S. B C C
E184 Latin American and Caribbean nationals inthe U.S. A B C
GR, GT, GV Anthropology -- pre- and post-Conquest societies; folklore, manners, and customs, recreation,dance B B C
HN, HQ, HS, HT, HV, HX Sociology -- theoreticaland applied; social history andconditions B B C
L, LA, LB, LC, LE Education -- theory, history,institutions A A B
PN4931-5106 Journalism,communications A A B
G, Q, R, T Geography; history of science; naturalhistory; public health;technology A A A
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