[Note: this article is an abbreviated and edited version of a paper entitled “LAMP and LARRP Projects for Collaborative Preservation and Access: Moving Forward” submitted to the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM) for publication in 2017.]
Cooperation among research libraries serving scholarship in Latin American Studies has been the founding and enduring value of the Latin Americanist Research Resources Project (LARRP) and the Latin American Materials Project (LAMP), two projects supported by CRL under the Global Resources umbrella. LAMP and LARRP have supported the work of scholars studying all areas of Latin America in a variety of disciplines. LAMP’s focus on the preservation of rare materials about Latin America complements LARRP’s goal of promoting free and equitable access to resources important to the study of Latin America.
Evolving digital technologies have widened opportunities for preservation and access over the last decades, benefitting both librarians and scholars. Digital preservation projects may enhance access, and digital projects meant to increase access may have a preservation component. While the two contribute to one another, they are not synonymous. The histories of LAMP and LARRP illuminate how each supports research on Latin America in its own way.
Latin American Materials Project
LAMP held its first meeting in 1975 with sixteen member libraries. In “The Latin American Microform Project: The First Decade” (1986) Carl Deal recounts the first years of LAMP’s work. Efforts to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Latin American collections throughout the United States and to identify prospects for collaboration led to strong emphases on materials from Mexico and Brazil. Projects built upon the professional connections between LAMP members and individuals at institutions in these countries. LAMP’s enduring mission to preserve “materials in danger of being lost or becoming inaccessible” helps guide current selection and standards in much the same way it informed the consortium’s early challenges and accomplishments. Recent projects preserve newspapers from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico as well as archival materials from Puerto Rico, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico.
Microfilm has historically been the most cost-effective and stable preservation technology. Deal’s article, and a 2004 article by James Simon “Treinta Años de LAMP—A Brief Look Back,” document the advantages and pitfalls of this preservation medium. In 1994 CRL was awarded a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to digitize LAMP’s collection of Brazilian government publications, preserved earlier on microfilm in cooperation with the Biblioteca Nacional do Rio de Janeiro. This $225,000 grant started LAMP’s transition to digital projects. The Brazilian Government Documents Digitization Project sought to facilitate scholarly access to a set of historical documents, while enhancing discovery through bibliographic references and structured indexing. It was an early effort to refine a process for deriving digital image files from preservation microfilm and to articulate tools, operations, and standards for digital representation and metadata. Most importantly, it relied heavily on deep collaboration.
With the success of the Project and the interest of scholars in working with digital materials, LAMP members have made more digital proposals for consideration by LAMP. LAMP has responded by implementing rigorous guidelines and additional requirements for digitization. For a digital project to be approved, it must provide for long-term sustainability and preservation, either at the institution digitizing the material or on deposit at CRL.
A recent LAMP initiative illustrates how preservation can play an important role in digital projects. LAMP provided funding to the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries to digitize and make freely available its holdings of El Diario de Pernambuco (Recife, Brazil) from November 1825–September 1922. This title is critical for research on early Brazilian commerce, society, politics, family life, slavery, and other topics. It contains numerous announcements of maritime movements, crop production, legal affairs, and cultural activities. The University of Florida had the only holdings in North America, but its copy of the microfilm was at risk because of frequent consultation by scholars. In order to ensure the longevity of the content, Florida proposed that this title be digitized. In turn, UF Digital Collections committed to support comprehensive, long-term digital preservation including redundant digital archives, adherence to proven standards, and rigorous quality control methods.
In the last five years LAMP added an additional layer to its evaluation process for digital proposals. All proposals are evaluated initially by volunteers from among the membership with demonstrable knowledge of best practices in digital archiving. LAMP digital projects must now include metadata created to facilitate access to specific images or text files as well as interoperability with the OAI-PMH (Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting). This requirement expands the opportunity for scholars to find and use this material and aligns LAMP’s goals more closely with those of LARRP.
Latin Americanist Research Resources Project
The Latin Americanist Research Resources Project (LARRP) was launched in 1994, originally supported by the Global Resources Program of the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). Founded almost 20 years after LAMP, LARRP’s goals were different but complementary. Rather than focusing on preserving unique and scarce materials, LARRP sought new approaches to acquiring Latin American materials and providing greater access to the materials libraries already held.
One of LARRP’s earliest efforts, the Distributed Resources Project (DRP), demonstrates how diversifying local collections can benefit scholars across the country. LARRP members participating in the DRP redirected seven percent of their Latin American collections’ budgets to a self-declared area of focus, which often coincided with areas of institutional strength or local faculty interest. By reducing funds spent on core collections replicated at other institutions, the DRP encourages LARRP members to enhance coverage of ‘non-core’ materials to support an inter- connected network of collections.
Another of LARRP’s early projects aimed to index Latin American journals that were not included in existing indices to provide greater discovery and accessibility. The Latin American Periodicals Table of Contents (LAPTOC) was started in 1996 and relied on volunteer indexers at LARRP member institutions throughout the Americas to add bibliographic data for assigned serials to the LAPTOC database. By 2009 LAPTOC included 975 academic and research journal titles published in 29 countries in the region, and provided bibliographic references to more than 340,000 articles in the area’s major languages.
LARRP continues to work on innovative approaches that support diverse and accessible research collections. LARRP’s work is guided by its mission to provide access to information that supports all forms of scholarship, to promote free and equitable access to these resources for the global scholarly community, and to actively cooperate with institutions that contribute to the flow of information. In 2012 the LARRP Advisory Committee created a “Strategic Directions” document to guide future LARRP activities, identifying three areas of programmatic activity for particular attention: 1) enhanced access to primary sources through digital initiatives; 2) collections analysis with an emphasis on utilizing data to inform and shape national collecting trends (including through the Distributed Resources Project); and 3) promoting of visibility of Latin American content in various tools, including indexes and web-scale discovery solutions.
Programmatically LARRP is best positioned to work in concert with LAMP in collection digitization, employing techniques similar to those successfully implemented by LAMP, including international collaboration and in-kind contributions from LARRP members. LARRP provides funds for digitization projects with well-established infrastructure, including the cooperative Digital Library of the Caribbean and Princeton’s Digital Archive of Latin American and Caribbean Ephemera. More recently, LARRP provided support to Tulane University to digitize a small selection of Cuban-American radionovelas, produced between 1963 and 1970 and to the University of Southern California for digitization of sociolinguistic audio interviews from Santiago, Chile, and Southern California.
LARRP prioritizes projects that work within existing systems, rather than building new infrastructure. It favors projects that adhere to open access principles, support scholarship in a variety of disciplines, provide models for future collaboration, involve institutional partners within Latin America whenever possible, and provide added value to the research community as a whole.
LAMP and LARRP continue to pursue separate but increasingly entwined primary goals. LAMP continues to preserve at-risk materials. LARRP continues to focus on enhancing access and discovery. New opportunities afforded by technology have blurred the lines between preservation and access. However, the possibilities offered by these technologies also bring opportunities for LAMP and LARRP to work together to support scholarship more effectively. CRL’s Global Collections Initiative, which builds upon the Global Resources and Area Materials programs based at CRL, may serve as a unifying framework for LAMP and LARRP to expand electronic access to primary source materials and data for area and international studies.