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An Interview with Jana Krentz

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This conversation with Jana Krentz, Curator for Latin American and Iberian Collections at Yale, comprises The Stacks, a conversation series published by The Yale Historical Review.

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An Interview with Jana Krentz

  1. 1. INTERVIEW JANA KRENTZCurator for Latin American and Iberian Collections at Yale University Interview by Henry Jacob, '21 Transcribed by Mathis Bitton and Daniel Ma July 12, 2020 How did you transition to remote learning and teaching in March? Some of my colleagues had to teach in an online environment without prior experience. But it was pretty easy for me because I already had some experience teaching digital primary sources online. Also, I'd met early in the semester with most of the students who were required to consult with me. The Latin American Librarians Association (SALALM) has regional consortiums. Our Northeast division is called LANE. We got together right away and discussed some common issues. At the same time, we started to compile a list of all of the Open Access primary source websites on Latin America. Now we have over 600. We also hosted weekly online mock classes at LANE. It started with someone who was going to be teaching a class via Zoom a couple of weeks in the future, and she wanted our feedback. Because it worked so well, we decided to set up the mock online classes and took what we learned to the wider library community via webinars. You mentioned that you've been getting busier. I know as well that you've been getting more emails from people outsideofNewHaven.Yalelibrarianscreatealotofresearch guides. Some students and also non-Yale patrons find me through those guides. They Google something and one of the library research guides comes up. In some of the cases, the students wanted basic things like a reading list for some topic that interests them. That’s not really my job. My area of expertise is the 19th century Spanish and Portuguese novel. I usually get a lot of queries from alumni, but not during COVID. For questions from professors, many were interested in online primary sources. It was just a matter of actually using the list that we compiled in LANE to help them find the digital resources that the can use right now. A lot of the queries have been about archives in Spain. How can I get to the Archivos de Indias? Are they open? Who can I contact to get materials? You mentioned that the tagging has been both difficult to do but also useful. Being forced now to really work remotely all the time online, are there new types of skills or perspectives you gained during the past months? The tagging you mentioned has to do with coming up with keywords to describe open access primary sources websites for the LANE project. We in LANE had to come up with a shared or common vocabulary for the project so we were all using the same keywords. oday we are honored to be speaking with Jana Krentz, Curator of the Latin American and Iberian collections at Yale University. Thank you so much for joining us, Jana. T 1YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW ONLINE
  2. 2. It's a lot easier to do a consultation than I thought was possible. I worried about this because I value my personal connection to my students. But that hasn't been lost in the conversations that I've had on Zoom, and that's been really gratifying. I continue to talk to students like you through Zoom, just to chat and see how things are going. I think I will have even more insights once the fall session begins and I start to teach online. The library also has set up a new consultation service for faculty and graduate students. Many grad students and faculty were confused about which librarian or archivist they should consult in order to find primary sources. The librarians or subject specials in Sterling or Marx pair up with an archivist in one of the special collections libraries for these sessions. At first, I didn’t know how it was going to work with another librarian there – if we really could collaborate But we actually complement each other very well. The service seems to be very popular! I’m glad to hear that. You have used the phrase personal connection a few times. How will you maintain these lasting bonds and create new ones with your students in the fall? It’s going to be tough. Time differences will always be tricky. We had our Latin American librarians’ conference online in California. It was difficult; we on the East coast didn’t get lunch until 3 o’clock. Scheduling meetings has been really stressful. The time difference has been difficult for students consulting me from Europe. I also worry about teaching from my computer. I make connections in the classroom with body movement, with eye contact, and with the humor that I bring to the room. I worry that I will lose these moments. People learn differently, so I don’t want the teaching online to be like electronic page-turning — it needs to be interactive. I don’t have a white board or anything to use for some of the interactive activities I like to do in the classroom. I feel bad for the first-years. They will not get the type of Yale experience that the rest of you have enjoyed. That's one of the wonderful things about being at Yale—all of these workshops and all the extracurriculars you can do and all the opportunities in the residential colleges— and I don't know how they're going to pull that off this year. But I also trust the creativity one finds here at Yale to solve these problems. It is also really important to get the students into the library for the first time. Way too many senior thesis students come to me their senior year and say, “I’ve never been in the library. I’ve never done any research.” And it’s really important, especially in some of the first-year seminars, that we actually get students into the library. Many students have come from high schools with very poorlibraries,andtheyjustdon’tknowsomeofthebasics Well, it’s not just them—it’s even some kids who have had great high school libraries available to them They don’t know how to look for a book. The stacks can be really intimidating. Jeez, I find them intimidating sometimes. When I was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin- MadisonIvisitedthelibraryforthefirsttime.Thatlibrary is probably larger in terms of square feet than Sterling, so the stacks were huge. I had a hard time, I remember, finding my way out. When I went back the second time, they were doing some type of reconstruction. I could not find my way into the stacks, and then I could not find my way out. I was starting to panic actually. Jana Krentz studies Latin American and Iberian literature at Yale University. She curates Yale's collections in her fields and compiles research guides for use by students, alumni, and faculty. Photo courtesy of Yale University. “I make connections in the classroom with body movement, with eye contact, and with the humor . . . I worry that I will lose these moments.” ON THE NEXT PAGE 2 JANA KRENTZ
  3. 3. 3YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW
  4. 4. There’s no escape from the library. I will never forget my first time in the stacks. I spent hours sifting through the shelves and then forgot how to find the exit. It’s important to have those experiences. That’s why we open the library for first-year students. Even in beginning Spanish classes, students go in to look at our Rare Book material and learn how to interpret primary sources. Now they’re not getting that. The reading room in the Beinecke will be open in some form, but we don’t know when or what it will look like. On the topic of extending Yale’s resources, I know that you have faced difficulties acquiring new materials this summer. What obstacles do your vendors in Latin America face during this crisis? Generally speaking, it’s very hard to get a hold of books to buy in Latin America. The print runs are very small and of a short duration. In addition, the vendors are little mom and pop businesses. Libraries need vendors in-country to buy for them. Many universities are saying, “Okay, well, we’re not buying hardcopies at all. We’re only buying e-books.” This is a big problem. Many parts of the world do not publish or publish little in e-book form. We started to brainstorm about ways we could help our vendors because we were worried about them staying in business. We drafted a statement that describes why we should continue buying print both for the sake of our vendors, but also so that we do not have gaps in the scholarship and literature from those regions of the world. We took this to SALALM, and we drafted a statement there of support for continued print purchases that has been so well received nationally that all of the areas studies librarians’ groups—the Middle Eastern group, the Slavic librarians’ group, everybody—are drafting statements of support for the statement SALALM put out. Also, since it’s impossible for anybody to buy everything from Latin America we have distributed resource projects in which one university buys publications from a particular country or a particular subject—for example, religion in the Southern Cone—and the university research library who committed to that area will buy books in depth or at a high level. The rest of the university libraries will buy core materials if they wish. And another research library will buy everything published in Costa Rica. Yale buys imprints from Puerto Rico—yes, we consider that a different country, believe it or not—Nicaragua, and Guatemala. These collaborative collection development programs have been going on for more than 20 years in some cases. Now all of these collaborative programs around the country are in jeopardybecausesomeuniversitylibrariesareimplementing ebook only policies. Thankfully Yale is not one of them. We librarians have to ensure that we have at least one copy of a book in the United States. Actually we say that five copies are necessary in the US to ensure that that particular title will survive in the future but these programs are a start. At least you still have plenty of books on your own bookshelf. What have you been reading? [Laughs] I don’t know if there’s anything I can recommend for anybody else because most of what I read is in Portuguese and Spanish. But I actually find it quite comforting to read things I’ve already read. I’m actually going through reading a bunch of the 19th-century novels that I’ve worked on. In Spain, Perez Galdós, Emilia Pardo Bazán (she’s one I wrote my dissertation on actually). In Brazil, Machado de Assis—I love Machado de Assis. There’s Carlos Ruiz Zafón in Spain. HewritesverymuchintheveinofGaldós.There’ssomething about that prose that just makes me happy. I too find comfort in returning to items that hold a nostalgic appeal. Yes, I agree. I will admit something. When I was a child, I used to read Trixie Belden books, kind of like Nancy Drew detective novels. I still have those Trixie Belden books. I couldn’t bear to part with them. I got those out early in the summer to reread them. I always have memories of reading those in the summer, so I actually went back to them. Actually there is some scholarly research that has been written about Trixie Beldene [laughs]. If not, you have already taken the first step to fill that gap in the literature! [Laughs.] I will look into that. For now, I think the most important thing to remember is that the librariansatYalearehereforyou.We’rehereforthestudents. We’re here for the faculty. We’re very approachable. We’re amazing! We can help find amazing things! 4 JANA KRENTZ “We should continue buying print . . . so that we do not have gaps in the scholarship and literature.”

This conversation with Jana Krentz, Curator for Latin American and Iberian Collections at Yale, comprises The Stacks, a conversation series published by The Yale Historical Review.

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