Information Update - Fall 1999
From The Library of The Central American University in San Salvador
The academic library' of the Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeon Cañas" (UCA) began to function in 1965 with the university itself and bears the name of the first rector of the university and founder of the library itself, Father Florentine Ideate, S.J. It is, by all opinions, easily the best library in all of El Salvador and probably the best in Central America. It is visited annually by more than 300,000 library patrons from schools and universities in El Salvador and by numerous researchers from all over the world.By U.S. standards, our library is a small one, but it is the biggest library in Central America. lt has four floors and houses a series of collections ranging from government documents, audiovisuals, serials and newspapers, special historical collections, specialized collections on El Salvador and Venezuela and a general collection of texts and other titles in support of the 33 undergraduate degrees (called a licenciatura, which is a little bit more advanced than a bachelor's degree but not yet a masters degree), four master's degree programs and one doctorate in Iberoamerican Philosophy - the first doctoral program in the country, founded to bring to life the dream of Father Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J.
The Florentino Idoate Library is in the process of being automated, a process begun through the inspiration of Father Martin Baro, S.J., Academic Vice-Rector, before his assassination. The automation of the library is a continuing process not yet completed because of the difficult post-war conditions prevailing in El Salvador. During the twelve years of conflict in El Salvador, there was, of course, little money for maintaining, let alone advancing the development of the UCA library. After the war and the signing of the peace accords in 1991, the arduous process of putting the library in order began during a reconstruction period which was and is almost more difficult than the war years. A grant from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation helped us begin automation and collection development, but things are still not easy. The modernization of the library began almost immediately after the signing of the peace accords and is being carried out by the most. amazing librarians. Salvadoran women and men, students and researchers, are "putting thing in order,"as it were, and we have advanced in the definition of the collections, their automation, acquisitions (an especially difficult process) and making our services known to the university community.
Our Salvadoran Collection is heavily consulted-people come from all over the world to do research on Salvadoran history, culture and politics and then donate copies of their theses or publications. El Salvador is currently undergoing a cultural renaissance, and publications, while small by international standards, have blossomed almost 100% -- that is, from almost zero during the war to new titles each week published through the Ministry of Culture (CONCULTURA).
During my five years as director of the library, I have certainly learned much more than I have taught. We have 55 full and part-time staff members and over 100 students doing community service commitments for the university, and everyone is making what I can only describe as a heroic effort to move the best library in El Salvador forward so that our students, professors and researchers can have access to all they need to build the country anew and make it better than before the war.
Directora de Biblioteca UCA