How can we bring high quality Spanish-language books into American libraries? Here’s one answer: I recently spent an afternoon with Kay Cassell. a fellow professor at Rutgers, and Linda Goodman of Bilingual Publications. Linda helps connect librarians in the United States with books written in Spanish from around the world. Kay and I were meeting with her to plan a trip to the Guadalajara International Book Fair for our students. Earlier this year, Thom Barthelmess told me that his students at Dominican University would be going to Guadalajara as well, so I thought it was an event worth discussing here. The fair is a conduit to Spanish books that all librarians should know about. This year it runs November 29-December 7, but it’s the first three days that most librarians choose to attend.
Linda has been attending the Guadalajara Book Fair since it began in 1987. She explained that the Guadalajara event is different from those in Bologna, Frankfurt, and London. It was created to show the world the best of Mexican publishing, not to sell rights. The focus of the fair has since expanded to include most South and Central American nations; Argentina, for example, is the featured guest country this fall. Guadalajara juggles its identities by having large halls in which publishers display books, another space for rights sales, and then a separate location for literary events. In the evening there are music and cultural activities. To put it another way, at some fairs, where the real action is sales, a librarian can feel like a guest; in Guadalajara the goal is sharing information about authors and books.
The language of the fair is Spanish. The books, which range from academic and art volumes to literary fiction and picture books, are in Spanish. The events are conducted in Spanish and many conversations are in Spanish. So Guadalajara has the most to offer to a librarian who can at a minimum read the books s/he finds intriguing.
But think of the opportunity the fair presents. It is, of course, an occasion to discover many wonderful titles that belong in libraries—books that can serve students whose native language is Spanish and titles for Spanish-language learners. (Linda and other distributors there can arrange to make them available for purchase in the United States). But beyond that the fair can open our eyes to how books for children, tweens, teenagers, and adults can look. Just browsing in Linda’s office I saw a volume printed top to bottom; an inviting graphic novel for elementary grade students on Galileo that had more information on his astronomical discoveries than I’ve ever seen in any comparable title; and a publisher whose entire line—including a stunning alphabet book with brilliant black-and-white photos—is entirely devoted to children’s titles featuring cats. Who knows what treasures await in the halls of Guadalajara? I look forward to finding out.
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