Friday, November 03, 2006

More Mexico

Try your best to forget yesterday,
A little bit of sun,
Without the rain,
Now there's nothing in your way.
Don't Look Back” - Thalía [Web site ; Wikipedia ; myspace]

In a prior post I recounted a recent trip to Manzanillo, Mexico for the Dublin Core conference. My experience of Mexico, however, did not stop there. Stu Weibel and I traveled to Mexico City to make presentations to librarians at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) [Wikipedia entry] better known by its acronym, UNAM.

Mexico City (Ciudad de México, México D.F) [Wikipedia entry] is the oldest (founded 1325), highest (7350 ft. above sea level) metropolis on the North American continent, and the most populous city (22 million people) in the Western Hemisphere and among the largest cities in the world. Sometimes referred to as the “Manhattan of Latin America,” Mexico City has the usual big city stuff (e.g., traffic, skyscrapers), but also offers uniquely Mexico City attributes such as a vibrant street vendor culture, and a user-friendly and high-volume-yet-efficient metro system. The country and the city have a remarkable history which is on display in many ways including in a number of excellent museums. Stu and I were particularly impressed by National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropología) [Wikipedia entry].

UNAM’s main campus is located in University City (Ciudad Universitaria) [Wikipedia entry], home to 1968 Olympic stadium and the amazing Central Library that boasts the world’s largest mural on its exterior [picture accompanying this post]. UNAM has some 140 libraries and provides education services to more than 500K students (and no, that’s not a typo – 500,000!).

Stu and I made three presentations to about 60 UNAM staff who listened to spoken English, but were able to view accompanying Powerpoints with text chiefly in Spanish (courtesy of translation work by our OCLC Latin America and the Caribbean colleagues), an arrangement that seemed to work well for all concerned. I presented selected environmental scan findings (this version included some Mexico-related material) and college students’ perceptions-of-libraries’ data (ppt as pdf: English, Spanish), and also presented new, original research by Brian Lavoie on Mexico- and Spanish language-related aspects of WorldCat (ppt: English, Spanish). Stu delivered an engaging tour of key players, trends, and technologies that are shaping our experiences with digital systems and content and will significantly impact how libraries must deliver services in the future (ppt: English, Spanish).

The UNAM staff listened with interest, asked insightful questions, and seemed generally acquainted with many of the systems, services, players Stu and I referenced. From comments, the audience seemed especially engaged by the connecting-of-the-dots pieces and implications we both (Stu in particular) drew. The WorldCat analysis also garnered interest (and I’m pleased to report that Brian has continued pursuing related data mining work).

Thanks are due to UNAM (especially Director General Silvia González Marín and her colleague José Octavio Alonso Gamboa for the invitation and arrangements) for hosting us. And special thanks go to our colleagues, Tim Rapp, Director of OCLC Latin America and the Caribbean, José Antonio Yáñez, Director of OCLC México, and Patricia Ramírez, also of OCLC México, for all their work to arrange the event, accompanying Stu and I to UNAM [the five of us pictured here], and for sharing their love of Mexico with us.  

I find myself much smitten with Mexico. I have a found a jewel on the United States’ southern border, and now long to return.

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