Latin American Collections at the Library
The University of Chicago Library is the tenth largest research library in North America with 11.6 million volumes in print and electronic form, 63,800 linear feet of archives and manuscripts, and 178 TB of University electronic archives and research data. Forty-five percent of the collections are non-English and published outside the US, supporting faculty research with a global impact and making the library a destination for international scholars.
Locating the vast majority of the library’s print collections in open stacks at five of its six campus locations allows users to access holdings rapidly and to make serendipitous discoveries while browsing. To maintain this extraordinary accessibility while continuing to add to collections, the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library opened in 2011 with an underground high-density automated storage and retrieval system, providing the capacity to store 3.5 million volumes. The library and its collections are heavily used: in 2016–17, the library documented 1.2 million visits and 208,941 volumes circulated to 12,516 unique individuals and 48,222 visiting researchers unaffiliated with the University used the collections onsite.
Beyond the library’s extensive circulating holdings on Latin America, with notable strengths on the colonial era, Mexico, and US foreign relations with Central America, the Special Collections Research Center holds the papers of renowned University of Chicago anthropologists Manning Nash, Robert Redfield, and Sol Tax. Additionally, the University holds some of the world’s richest resources on the indigenous cultures and languages of Mesoamerica, including the relatively new Chicago Archive of Indigenous Literatures of Latin America, which catalogs and makes available over 500 titles in indigenous languages published by small writers’ cooperatives and independent publishers that are not otherwise available in the United States. Other specialized collections include a Latin American music collection with a broad range of leading 20th-century composers with over 320 scores and 250 recordings not commercially available, and an archive of Brazilian television and cinema housing more than 300 movies and television series.
The library has worked with the CLAS on several projects to preserve and enhance digital access to our unique collections, including two NEH-supported projects to digitize over 1,500 hours of audio recordings dating to 1908, documenting nearly 200 indigenous languages spoken in southern Mexico and Central America over a 50-year period of fieldwork, and a corresponding 200,000-page archive of field notes and transcriptions now accessible in searchable form. A grant from the US/ED supported the modernization and digitization of unique courses in Mayan languages to create online multimedia curricula in Yucatec and K’iche’ Maya that are used in the US, Guatemala, and Mexico. Work continues to establish a single online portal that will provide global access to our materials, one of the largest collections of digital Mesoamerican language materials in the US.
These research resources supplement the Library's strong Latin Americanist collections, making the University of Chicago one of the premier institutions for materials on Latin America.