120 años de la Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile: Preface

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== Preface ==

Soledad Ferreiro Serrano


At slightly more than 120 years old, the Library of the National Congress is an intitution with its specific historical weight. The Library has had eight Chief Librarians, one of whom later became President of the Repubiic and two of whom, including myself, have been women. All of these have striven to both give the Library socio-cultural relevance and make it a nonexclusive space.

The founding of the Library is closely linked to the political and historical history of Chile. In 1883, in a visionary gesture, the House of Representatives accepted the proposal of Representative Pedro Montt M., who would later be President of the Republic, to obtain from France those bibliographic collections that contained the ideas which would, in time, transform the world. Thus, Chile was brought into contact with the ideals and political, social and cultural practices of illustrated and Liberal Europe. And, in this way, the Library of the National Congress was, from its inception, a relevant actor in Chile's political and congressional processes, serving as a window that the country kept open to look out on the world and our future.

I wish to recall here the essential trait of libraries, that constitutive factor which has been theirs throughout history.

Libraries have invariably responded to their communities in a dynamic give and take, nurturing those communities and being nurtured by them. In the flow of diverse paradigms, contexts and successive technological innovations, from clay tablets to digital technology, libraries have constantly reinvented theír ways of being nurtured by them. In the flow of diverse paradigms, contexts and successive technological innovations, from clay tablets to digital technology, libraries have constantly reinvented theír ways of being in and appearing to society, of generating and conserving collective memories, as repositories of humanity’s commitments and as tools for disclosing and constructing the future. Until printing entered the scene, libraries were centripetal institutions, where authors and book producers, who employed available technologies, shared common spaces in which diverse forms of knowledge flowed together in the currents of history and culture. The printing press generated a centrifugal movement by irradiating the printed word to a broader readership, together wíth the new opportunities that it afforded, as it simultaneously differentiated the tasks of authors, editors and printers.

Today, the digital context allows us to bring together again the traditional values of libraries, releasing new energies to a degree never achieved before. Authors, editors and producers constitute, once again, interactional communities, which are more plastic and reticular than heretofore, within a flux of relationships that form and dissolve in complex interaction.

On taking up the post of Chief Librarian sixteen months ago, I was invited to implement such institutional transformations as would be coherent with the paradigmatic changes wrought by globalization and technological revolutions on a world-wide scale. Those changes, as never before in history, affect every dimension of the lives of individuals, institutions and communities, as seen in the emergence of new roles and identities, innovative forms of work, new modalities of relationship. In other words, the world is being affected by a challenging transformation of traditional common sense, made manifest in the shift of attention away from the world of objects, with their specific domains and uses, to the sphere of human networks in unceasing interaction, in which roles are reinvented and objects acquire new use modalities, especially by value being added to them.

I wish to share with you the reflections that shaped our decision to change along those lines and the questions that we posed from the outset. What should be our way of being and appearing in the world of congresspersons? What Library must we bring to maturity to generate value for our community?

To address these questions, we are observing ourselves and our central communities with fresh eyes and we are listenning to congresspersons in new ways.

By focusing our action on congresspersons and their support networks, we are opening ourselves to dynamic and on-going processes of transformations of perspective and practice, reappreciating our activities in light of the qualitative experience we provoke in those communities.

The creation of value is a task that implies nothing less than the reinvention of our Library, in harmony with global, national and our specifically congressional contexts. This means that we must establish permanent relationships with the community so as to develop its capacity to act. This focus obliges us to leave our offices and participate actively in the daily routines of congresspersons, to be present “on the ground”, so that they can count on our support in their parliamentary and representational roles.

Moreover, new technology demands that we recover our historical role as teachers of alphabets, now extended to include the “alphabets” of information technologies. This demand translates into the commitment to generate information management abilities in our prime target community to help them act skillfully in the information society.

On the basis of this new common sense, we no longer think of the Library of the National Congress as a source of products and services generated in response to user demands, but rather as an institution that collaborates in the expansion of possibilities with its community members, as human beings, that makes knowledge available to them that is comprehensible and congruent with their individual values and inherent cultural practíces, with their concerns and those of the communities most relevant to them. The Library must be an institution that offers congresspersons the collaboration and tools they need to fulfill their roles and commitments, and to construct their own identity as such.

I believe that, in this way, the Library will become an instrument for the creation and accumulation of social capital.

The Library, as I conceive it, is therefore an invitation to congresspersons to enter into a mutually advantageous conversation.

The book in your hands is a collective creation by members of Library staff who have been actors in the transformation processes have mentioned. I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to this book’s editor, Mr. David Vásquez, and to its contributors Ms. Ximena Feliú, Ms. Marialyse Délano, Mr. Juan Guillermo Prado and Mr. Pablo Valderrama, as well as for the content contribution of Ms. Ana María Zúñiga, the review and translation into English by Thomas Connelly, and to Ms. Carla Grandi, who

with her capacity for analysis, reflection and redaction was centrally important in the creation of these essays.

In November, 2003, the ex Chief Librarian of the Library, Ms. Ximena Feliú, received the Medal for Distinguished Service from the Senate of Chile, while, in August, 2004, our Integrated System of Territorial information was singlad out for international recognition by the global service software company ESRI.

I am very happy to be in the Library of the National Congress because I have found it to be a valuable synergetic locus of persons, talents and information and technological resources, and I am grateful to each and every one of the professionals and collaborators in the Library who are dedicating their best efforts and wealth of experience to the sweeping transformation we have undertaken.


Soledad Ferreiro Serrano
The Librarian of Congress