In the third installment of our faculty and staff interview series, Antonio Sotomayor, the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Librarian at the International and Area Studies Library, tells us a little bit about his background and his role at the library. Antonio joined the library after earning his PhD in History from the University of Chicago in 2012. He is responsible for developing the strong Latin American & Caribbean Studies collection at library and working with faculty and students researching the region. His own research interests include the culture and politics of sport, especially as they pertain to the development of national identity in Latin America.
Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up? What languages do you speak? Where did you go to school? I grew up in Puerto Rico, between San Juan and Mayagüez/Cabo Rojo. My native language is Spanish, but I’ve studied English since first grade. I did all of my schooling at Colegio Espíritu Santo, a private Catholic school in the neighborhood of Hato Rey, San Juan. I then went to college at the Universidad de Puerto Rico – Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez (or as we like to call it “Colegio de Agricultura y Artes Mecánicas”). At Colegio, I majored in Psychology and planned to become a Counseling Psychologist. That is what brought me to the US and, in 2001, I entered the Counseling program at Indiana University in Bloomington. I finished my MS in Counseling in 2004, specializing in Career Counseling. But at IU I began to question the process of identity formation of Puerto Ricans and I applied to the MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies here at Illinois. I finished my MA in 2006 and continued my studies at the University of Chicago, where I finished my PhD in history in 2012.
What attracted you to librarianship and your area of specialty? I was attracted to librarianship by my years of graduate work and archival research. Libraries are the heart of the educational experience and the basis of scholarship. I think Latin America and the Caribbean is an exciting area to study because of its diversity and rich history.
What brings you to the International and Area Studies Library? What are you most excited about working on here? I am excited to be working alongside other world area experts. Coming from outside the profession of librarianship, I have much to learn and I have a great and very helpful group of colleagues.
Briefly, describe your typical work day at the library. I check my e-mail, answer questions, or coordinate meetings. I often meet with students to talk about sources for their research, other faculty members on multiple topics, or library colleagues regarding collection management. Sometimes I have to work on writing grants or other material about our LACST collection. If I have time, I read scholarly articles pertaining to my field and my research. On my research day, I revise manuscripts already in preparation, write new material, or analyze data for future works.
What are your research and collection development interests within your subject specialty? I collect LACST material in the social sciences and humanities, mainly history, anthropology, economics, sociology, political sciences, art history, etc. I have a particular research and collection development interest in the culture and politics of sport. I am currently working on a few articles that document the ways in which mass sport and recreation programs in mid-twentieth century Puerto Rico helped to consolidate a populist movement. I’m also working on a longer project that shows the ways in which Puerto Rican Olympism helped to consolidate both national identity and colonialism.
Tell us about a cool resource at the library that you want everyone to know about. We have close to 300 letters from the Conde de Montemar written between 1761 and 1799, mainly between Lima and Madrid.
What are some of your proudest career accomplishments? I am too early in my career to say, but I’m very glad to have this job.
Do you have any career advice for someone interested in the kind of work that you do? Get really good at multitasking and organizing your time.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies and interests? I like to watch sports and play basketball. I’m also an amateur genealogist and enjoy the science and art of heraldry.
What is your favorite thing to do in the C-U area? I have many places I like to go with my family: we love Jarling’s Custard Cup, the park on Winsdor, and going to the YMCA.
What is your favorite place you’ve visited? I love many parts of my dear Puerto Rico: the beaches, Old San Juan, small towns in the interior and west, hiking, the museums and cultural centers.
In Fall 2013, Antonio put together the exhibit Unity in Diversity: Latin America and the Caribbean at the University of Illinois Library. Take a look at the exhibit website if you would like to learn more about the history of our rich collection of area resources. To meet with Antonio, contact him to schedule an appointment or come by the International and Area Studies Library offices in Room 329 of the Main Library.