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The mission of "Little Star": Juana Manrique de Lara's contributions to Mexican librarianship
Libraries and the Cultural Record. 45.4 (Fall 2010): p469+.
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In the wake of the Mexican Revolution and after a year studying library science in the United States, Juana Manrique de Lara returned to Mexico City to begin work as library inspector for the Federal District. The story of her life and career in public and children's library service and library education is an historical narrative of both her emerging profession and her nation. This study focuses on Manrique de Lara's formative years (1899-1925) as she acquired an education and began her life's work in the midst of Mexico's prolonged civil war and subsequent reconstruction. Foremost, this study is a tribute, intended to share what too few librarians, even in Mexico, know: Juana Manrique de Lara helped establish librarianship in Mexico and passed her enthusiasm for the profession to a generation of librarians.

Every society of the West today needs a certain number of doctors, magistrates, soldiers, and librarians--to cure their citizens when sick, to administer justice to them, to defend them, and to make them read.

--Jose Ortega y Gasset, "Mision del bibliotecario"

You have no idea of the enthusiasm I had, the love I felt for my profession. Indeed, it was my life, and they paid me.

--Estela Morales Campos, "Entrevista: Juana Manrique de Lara"


In the summer of 1924 and in the wake of the Mexican Revolution, twenty-seven-year-old Juana Manrique de Lara returned to Mexico City fresh from a year of study at the Library School of the New York Public Library to begin work as inspectora de bibliotecas (library inspector) for the Federal District. Manrique de Lara's mission, so well articulated over the course of her nearly forty-year career, was to recognize and respond to the needs of Mexicans of all ages for reading and for public libraries. In the midst of civil war she acquired an education, forged a career, and made lasting contributions to librarianship in her homeland. The depth and reach of Manrique de Lara's work are reflected in her professional passions, which first encompassed children's library service, expanded to public library management, and then found tandem expression in teaching library education and as a government-appointed library consultant. Remarkably, as a young professional she succeeded by both conforming to and defying bureaucratic practice to bring children's library service, public libraries, and library education to the federal government's attention in the midst of and following the Mexican Revolution.


There is very little scholarship that mentions Manrique de Lara and even less that examines her life and work in any depth. Accordingly, piecing together Manrique de Lara's early life and career is a challenging task. To do so, one must draw from a limited number of articles or sections of monographs, a single interview, contemporaneous government sources, and Manrique de Lara's own writings, almost all of which are Spanish-language materials published in Mexico and found in few public, university, or research libraries across North America. The foremost scholarship on Manrique de Lara is the work of Mexican library historian Martha Alicia Anorve Guillen, whose master's thesis led to two published articles on Manrique de Lara's contributions to the federal government's library programs and to children's library services during the 1920s. Her conclusion, based on close comparisons of Manrique de Lara's early articles and Secretaria de Educacion Publica (SEP) documents, is that although no official attribution was ever made, we can infer that the SEP heard and incorporated Manrique de Lara's suggestions into its now-landmark library planning between 1920 and 1924. (1) Ample, yet not abundant in number, Manrique de Lara's own writings comprise the most compelling testament to her life, work, and ideas. With the exception of children's stories published under the pseudonym La Estrellita (Little Star), these writings were articles, booklets, and texts written over decades to advance Mexico's library service.

Libraries in Early-Twentieth-Century Mexico

When Juana Manrique de Lara was born in 1897, Mexico had for nearly twenty years been led by Porfirio Diaz, an elected president turned dictator who through a centralized government and foreign investment brought wealth to the country's elite but did little to advance public education or Mexico's libraries. During the Porfiriato, as the period of Diaz's presidency is known in Mexico, the masses worked seven days a week, eleven to twelve hours each day, and child mortality stood at 30 percent. (2) Diaz's nearly three decades of power ended in 1911, when the Mexican Revolution began the nation's ten-year struggle to free itself from dictatorial, military-backed rule and to build a democracy. The fifth president following the start of the revolution--and the first to remain in office for more than two years--was Venustiano Carranza, who served between 1914 and 1920. Carranza found himself in the midst of a cultural and educational revolution. Under Diaz, 6 percent of the federal budget had been allotted for education, while military spending accounted for 20 percent. During the revolution hundreds of schools were destroyed or abandoned, and at one point the national population actually dropped by one million people, as one of every eight Mexicans, or 1.5 to 2 million people, are estimated to have been killed. (3) Toward the close of the revolution, approximately 8.8 million of 14.3 million Mexicans over five years of age could neither read nor write, and most Mexican people lived in rural communities of fewer than 2,500 people. (4) Carranza's administration included a department of public instruction, through which Agustin Loera y Chavez, a future assistant director of the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library), sought to develop school libraries, establish a children's library within the Biblioteca Nacional, and create a library school.

Library historian Rosa Maria Fernandez de Zamora has noted that during Mexico's colonial period the nation's libraries were influenced by Spanish trends, in the nineteenth century French trends prevailed, and during the twentieth century methods and practices from the United States dominated Mexican libraries. (5) Evidence of American influence was seen in the Comisiones Culturales (Cultural Commissions) program initiated by Felix Palavinci, Carranza's secretary of public education, in which Mexican educators toured the United States to study educational and cultural institutions, including libraries. During the 1915 tour Loera y Chavez visited Boston's libraries, and Maria Arias Bernal, a fervent educator known as "Maria Pistolas," or Pistol Maria, toured the public libraries of New York, after which Arias Bernal submitted a report that echoed previous proposals for reform but also called for national programs on library use and management for primary, secondary, and college preparatory schools as well as teacher training and technical institutes. (6) Due to the upheaval brought by the revolution, however, Carranza's government was not able to respond substantively to ideas for library reform from either Mexico or the United States.

What, then, was a Mexican library like during the early decades of the twentieth century? According to Guadalupe Quintana Pali, Cristina Gil Villegas, and Guadalupe Tolosa Sanchez, the Federal District had fifty libraries in 1911; all of these libraries were "public" in that anyone could use their usually closed-stack, noncirculating collections. (7) Manrique de Lara later would note that these urban libraries, which were located in government agencies, universities, professional schools, museums, institutes, and learned societies, served mostly students and researchers but not persons learning to read and write. (8) Many of the nation's libraries were open variable hours and days and often were staffed by a volunteer. Any person working in a library was referred to as a "librarian," and while these persons may have been dedicated to their daily work, few saw themselves as members of a profession. Library employees possessed a general education and received fitful training from the federal government for employees of its libraries. (9)

The Mexican Revolution is commonly considered to have spanned the years 1910 to 1920. Toward the conclusion of the country's civil war some of its ideology was codified into articles 3, 27, and 127 of the Constitution of 1917, consecrating Mexicans' rights to work, to land, and to education and culture. (10) A primary force behind bringing education and culture to postrevolutionary Mexico was Jose Vasconcelos, a federal bureaucrat under whom Manrique de Lara would later work. After the assassination of Carranza, provisional president Adolfo de la Huerta appointed thirty-nine-year-old Vasconcelos to the post of rector of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM). In this role Vasconcelos traveled the country and began a campaign against illiteracy marked by the creation of the journal El Maestro, the publication of the first titles in a series of classic books in Spanish, and a free-breakfast program in Mexico's public schools; he also assembled a corps of volunteers--teachers, housewives, public officials, and university students--to teach the illiterate masses to read and write. (11) Vasconcelos's ability to create innovative educational reform led newly elected president Alvaro Obregon in the fall of 1921 to appoint him director of the SEP, the agency overseeing the federal departments of education, fine arts, and libraries.

Vasconcelos understood that the new government was unstable and that future ministers of education might have little or no interest in his programs; accordingly, in his three-year tenure he focused on projects that he believed held the greatest lasting benefit for the Mexican people. (12) Vasconcelos's vision was realized between 1922 and 1924 by Jaime Torres Bodet, then director of the Departamento de Bibliotecas (DB), who had served as his private secretary. Reports vary on the number of books distributed and libraries established, but representative figures show that by the end of its second year the DB had distributed 100,000 volumes to over 1,200 new libraries across Mexico despite an annual budget of only 1.4 million pesos (equivalent to $700,000 at that time). (13) In Mexico City 50,000 people were visiting the twenty-four newly established libraries each month. (14) Crates of books were transported to rural areas by mules. Additionally, Vasconcelos created two important libraries in Mexico City: the Biblioteca Iberoamericana, which specialized in Latin American materials, and the Biblioteca Cervantes, dedicated to literature. (15)

"Good books" for Vasconcelos were works of literature, which he believed best conveyed the wisdom of different ages and traditions. But Vasconcelos's passion prevented him from understanding that many books the DB sent to communities throughout Mexico--novels, volumes of philosophy, works on arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, and agriculture--were not always well suited for the nation's libraries: 'The book shipments came to communities which were monolingual, illiterate and had strong oral traditions. To cite just one example: in Miahuatlan, Oaxaca, according to reports from a missionary teacher, the public library exhibited works by Ibsen, Aeschylus and Omar Khayyam. For several neighbors who did not speak Spanish seated around a table in a community center, noticeably absent were books teaching reading or any type of material on local industries or farming problems."(16) Throughout the nineteenth century intellectuals and writers frequently helped found and run Mexico's libraries: novelists Fernandez de Lizardi and Manuel Payno wrote significant pieces on behalf of the nation's libraries, while dramatist Manuel Eduardo de Gorostiza and novelist Martin Luis Guzman served as directors of the Biblioteca Nacional. In the mid-1940s Vasconcelos himself would serve as director of both the Biblioteca Nacional and the Biblioteca de Mexico. While Vasconcelos and Torres Bodet believed that improved rates of literacy would help stabilize Mexico and worked in unprecedented ways to found the country's library system, they were, foremost, men of letters and would achieve international stature. What Mexico needed in the wake of its revolution was a person who understood, respected, and could articulate the reading needs of its people. The nation needed a librarian, a person who was considered a professional; this was the role that Juana Manrique de Lara would fill.

Juana Manrique de Lara's Background and Beginnings

Juana Manrique de Lara was born on March 12, 1897, the second of eleven children, in the village of El Cubo in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato. Her father, Juan Manrique de Lara, ran the village's general store, and her mother, Paulina Macias, oversaw their busy, self-sufficient household. Due to difficult living conditions and despite her parents' care, however, most of Juana's siblings died young. Juana's introduction to books and libraries came from her family. Her paternal grandfather, for instance, would give her a trunk of books to mark her saint's day; her mother's father, who along with the village priest was one of the intellectuals of the community, had a small library in El Cubo, the first Juana had ever seen, of unvarnished boards heavy with books. Juana was educated in her family's village and then in a bilingual American school in the city of Guanajuato, the state capital, where her family had relocated. Anorve Guillen notes that during the Porfiriato the nation's precarious economic conditions and the populace's poor understanding of the importance of education--particularly in rural areas--led most parents to send their children to work rather than to school. (17) Manrique de Lara's parents' dedication to education was exceptional and clearly influenced their daughter, for in 1914 she entered the Instituto Normal Mexico in Puebla, leaving her family to live as a boarding student while training to be a teacher. However, within a year instability created by the revolution led to the school's closing, and Manrique de Lara joined her family, now living in Mexico City. Jobs were scarce, but Manrique de Lara soon was working as a secretary in a school in the capital city headed by one of her teachers from Puebla. And as none of the school's teachers were interested in newly created classes at the Biblioteca Nacional, the school's director allowed Manrique de Lara to attend classes from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the Escuela Nacional de Bibliotecarios y Archiveros (National School for Librarians and Archivists, hereafter referred to as the Escuela Nacional), the country's site for library education. (18)

The Escuela Nacional had opened in June 1916 and admitted its first group of students to a free, year-long course of study composed of seven subjects: classification, organization of libraries, cataloging, bibliography, and language translation skills in French, English, and Latin. Manrique de Lara's instructors included some of the country's most prominent library figures, men such as Agustin Loera y Chavez, Nicolas Leon, and Juan B. Iguiniz. There was no shortage of students, as 121 registered for the first class, and most of these students were employed either at the Biblioteca Nacional or in one of the libraries of the Federal District. Despite their great number, however, many students lacked adequate preparation for the coursework, and at the end of the first year only twenty-one students remained; just six of these, including Manrique de Lara, completed the required exams.

At the start of the school's second year the faculty expanded the plan of study to two years and offered deeper treatment of still mostly technical subjects, while courses on library science and paleography were added as well. Admission requirements were formalized, which called for students to have completed escuela primaria superior, Mexico's equivalent to early middle school, and to be no less than fifteen but no older than fifty years of age. Although Manrique de Lara undertook more coursework, she recalled that few of her classmates continued with the program's second year: library salaries in Mexico were very low, so persons with adequate education sought higher-paying jobs in other fields. The small number of students completing the program (103 persons enrolled in the second class, and 32 of these were still attending in 1918), coupled with scant government funding for public education and libraries, led Venustiano Carranza to close the Escuela Nacional in June 1918. The school's closing followed the federal government's suppression a year earlier of the Secretaria de Instruccion Publica, the federal agency responsible at that time for overseeing and attempting to coordinate library services for the Federal District.

As an indication of the short-lived school's lasting impact, an article in Biblos, a new publication of the Biblioteca Nacional, noted that employees who had taken classes at the Escuela Nacional were improving services at numerous libraries throughout the capital city. It also is significant that completion of the school's coursework offered its few graduates the first credential for library training in Mexico, thus marking the beginning of a professional identity. Manrique de Lara had come to Mexico's most important city and library to study under diligent, knowledgeable professors, persons passionate about literacy and teaching from whom she learned that Mexico was in great need of trained librarians. And as she entered professional life Manrique de Lara well understood that libraries could help educate and improve the lives of the Mexican people. She understood as well that librarians and their patrons would come only from generations of Mexicans who had been taught to use and value libraries. Accordingly, public and school libraries, children's literature, and library education were emerging as her life's work.

Library Services for Children and a Four-Part Manifesto

Upon completion of her training in 1917, Manrique de Lara joined the staff of the Biblioteca Nacional on a part-time basis as director of the "projected" children's circulating library. This library would be the first of its kind in Mexico, and its creation was supported by both President Carranza and Agustin Loera y Chavez, now director of the Escuela Nacional and one of Manrique de Lara's professors. Manrique de Lara's education in pedagogy and librarianship made her an ideally and, for the time, uniquely qualified applicant, even though she was only twenty years old, and her selection for the post reflected as well the high regard she had earned from her professors at the Escuela Nacional. The Biblioteca Nacional had opened in 1884 in the refashioned former Church of San Agustin and now included a small public library in its adjacent chapel. This was certainly a fitting first job for a new librarian wanting to work with the public, for, as Manrique de Lara would later note in the Wilson Bulletin for Librarians, the Biblioteca Nacional was for decades the only library to truly serve the people of Mexico City, as university, school, and society libraries were out of the reach of most Mexicans. (19) Although the Biblioteca Nacional supported public libraries throughout the country, the role was outside its mission and capacity, as even this flagship library's collections--ninety thousand volumes gathered from university, convent, seminary, and private libraries--had suffered from decades of inadequate funding and badly needed updating.

Little is known of the children's circulating library or Manrique de Lara's work in it. Anorve Guillen notes only that the Biblioteca Nacional "projected" and "tried" to open a children's circulating library, and Escuela Nacional documents held in Mexico City refer to Manrique de Lara as both the "head" and "organizer" of the library. (20) What we do know is that it was Loera y Chavez who passed on to Manrique de Lara in the summer of 1917 a request from Leonore Power, a children's librarian in the United States, for help in identifying books in Spanish for children under fifteen years of age. Powell explained that teaching of the Spanish language was growing in the United States and that stories of legends and travel, for example, written in Spanish were in demand at her library. This early professional task proved formative for Manrique de Lara, as the care she took in responding to Powell's request showed both her skill and her passion for children's library services. To guide her work, Manrique de Lara drafted and used three criteria: each children's book had to have a developmentally appropriate theme, be of unquestionable morality, and be written by an established author. After consulting authorized sources and reading as many children's books as she could, Manrique de Lara replied with a list of only three hundred works she deemed appropriate for a children's collection, with the qualifying comment that the list included works by "Spanish or Mexican authors of lesser merit and some translations of children's stories by foreign authors." (21) This experience helped Manrique de Lara understand that in Mexico, in addition to a lack of libraries for children, printed children's literature was scarce and too often of low quality.

When Jose Vasconcelos was appointed head of the SEP in the fall of 1921, Juana Manrique de Lara for a short time assumed duties as bibliotecaria tecnica, or cataloger, for the Biblioteca National. Manrique de Lara had worked for three years to develop the children's circulating library of the Biblioteca Nacional and now sought to develop the cataloging and technical skills that would extend her understanding of library services and become the focus of much of her writing and teaching. During the five months Manrique de Lara worked as bibliotecaria tecnica she published two two-part articles in Biblos, the weekly bulletin of the Biblioteca Nacional, in which she made numerous detailed suggestions for improving services in public and school libraries. Her audience included government officials in the SEP such as Vasconcelos and Torres Bodet and employees of the growing number of libraries in and beyond Mexico City. Through these writings Manrique de Lara expressed her maturing opinions on Mexico's libraries.

Manrique de Lara appealed to popular Mexican memory by issuing el grito, or the cry "!Escuelas y bibliotecas!," reminiscent of the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla's call that began the Mexican Wars of Independence in 1810 in Guanajuato, her home state. Her cry came in response to the recent announcement in the press that the SEP was planning ten new public libraries for Mexico City. Although these new libraries would fill an urgent need for the entire public, Manrique de Lara maintained that young people could most benefit. Her excitement for the new libraries was tempered, therefore, as she described the setting in which librarians and teachers in early postrevolutionary Mexico worked each day: "All teachers know this sad truth: the Mexican people do not love reading, and when they do read, they waste time with poor or dull books." Although she did not mention the nation's low literacy levels, Manrique de Lara reasoned candidly that, given the poor selection of books Mexico's libraries offered, it would be best for Mexicans not to read and for libraries to have even fewer patrons.

Accordingly, Manrique de Lara called for the SEP to create "even two" school libraries among the ten public libraries planned for the capital city. She believed that the practice used in Europe and the United States of annexing a children's section to a public library would not work well, for if Mexicans little used the existing public libraries, why would they take their children to these new facilities? What was needed, she stated, were ideas that could be realized easily and immediately, and so she offered a plan for "una biblioteca infantil Mexicana," or a Mexican children's library, which would be part of a school. She distinguished between and called for both a children's library (for small children up to ten years of age) and a young person's library (for ages ten to sixteen); all patrons over age sixteen would use an adult public library. The collection and premises she envisioned would be designed especially for children: spacious and well illuminated during the day and at night, with good ventilation; decorated with appealing artwork and, if possible, plants and flowers; and furnished with round tables with chairs and shelving at a comfortable height for children. Selecting books for children in Mexico, Manrique de Lara stated, was difficult, as bibliographies of children's literature were scarce. Consistent with readers' advisory practice of the time, she viewed the librarian as active counselor and guide in forming children's taste in books. She shared here the three criteria she developed when compiling the list of children's books in Spanish for American colleague Leonore Power, and she encouraged her Mexican colleagues: "We need to instill a love of reading in children and a love of good books: books that teach, which delight and lift the soul, which offer wider and more beautiful horizons." Children preferred, she continued, works of imagination and illustrated books; they needed as well scientific works adapted for their age level as well as access to school texts their families could not afford to purchase. In contrast, similar books for adolescents were plentiful and would not be so challenging to locate or obtain. The children's librarian, she continued, should be "the soul of the library ... an educator, an effective and valued colleague of the teachers, and a caring and intelligent friend of the children and young people who use the library." (22)


For the time and place, Manrique de Lara's statements were novel and ambitious. Mexico did not have a single library dedicated to children and young people, and the country was not yet able to sustain a school for library education--the latter Manrique de Lara and her professional colleagues saw as essential for improving the nation's library service. And although the idea that children needed their own library would not have been new to her audience, the proposal for separate collections for different ages of young people was truly revolutionary in Mexico. Through these writings Manrique de Lara was teaching--even at this early stage of her career--Mexican library employees and bureaucrats throughout the Federal District. These well-considered recommendations sprang from a twenty-four-year-old woman with already appreciable experience and knowledge of library science and pedagogy. She showed an awareness of current trends in library service, first learned in the Escuela Nacional but also forged from her own vision and faithful reading of the professional literature available at the Biblioteca Nacional, her place of employment. (23) Hers was a more focused vision than Vasconcelos's and Torres Bodet's: Manrique de Lara considered libraries the best way to reach the coming generations--children in schools, children working in factories, children in offices--and so selectively turned to heightened language in these early writings: "The sacred destiny of our country will be determined by teachers and librarians, for they have been entrusted with the education of our young people and the nation as a whole." (24) These articles comprise a personal and professional manifesto of librarians' responsibilities; here, Manrique de Lara articulated to herself and to her readers an enthusiastic vision that would soon deepen through new work settings and further education.

Public Library Work in Mexico City

After just a few months as cataloger, Manrique de Lara was named by Torres Bodet head of the Biblioteca Amado Nervo, one of the first public libraries opened by the DB and named in memory of the beloved Mexican poet and diplomat who had died in 1919. Manrique de Lara had practiced public library work at the Biblioteca Nacional, but the Amado Nervo library put her in more direct contact with disadvantaged Mexicans, as it was a neighborhood public library housed in a former technical school in a "red zone," an area with high rates of poverty and crime. Certainly, by offering her this position, Torres Bodet responded to Manrique de Lara's vision for Mexico's libraries so well articulated in her writings for Biblos, but, foremost, he recognized her enthusiasm for library service and hoped she could share this feeling with others. She began her work by organizing the library and ordering new books of interest to patrons. Then to promote the Biblioteca Amado Nervo, Manrique de Lara talked with residents of the area, not just to people who came to the library: she visited families in their homes, she talked to men in workshops, she even spoke with prostitutes on the street, telling them all that the library had books for them. Their first response to her invitation was a question: "We can come in the library?" Their second response was to come. Manrique de Lara fashioned her work to meet the needs of her patrons: the library was open from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m., including Sundays, times and days when many of her neighbors did not have to work. That she taught a young man who shined shoes to read and to use the library demonstrates her generous view of a public librarian's responsibilities.

During the year Manrique de Lara served as director of the Biblioteca Amado Nervo the library was one of the most popular in the Federal District, with between three hundred and four hundred patrons daily--only the Biblioteca Nacional, the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria, and a few other university libraries recorded higher attendance figures. (25) Word of the library's success soon spread to the SEP, and both Jose Vasconcelos and Jaime Torres Bodet came to see the results of Manrique de Lara's enthusiasm. To help handle her success, Manrique de Lara asked Torres Bodet for an assistant, an unlikely request at the time, as most small libraries were staffed by just one person, often a volunteer. When Torres Bodet granted her request, she hired Jesus Castillo Lopez, a neighborhood high school student who later became a prominent lawyer and governor of the state of Morelos. As additional evidence of her professionalism and promise, Manrique de Lara codified patrons' rights and responsibilities in library policies: "All inquiries should be made directly to the person in charge, who is responsible for giving a complete and helpful reply." As she had done previously, Manrique de Lara shared her work with other librarians and her administrative superiors at the SEP when in February 1923 she published these policies in El Libro y el Pueblo, the monthly publication of the Departamento de Bibliotecas. (26) Formal recognition soon followed, as the SEP praised the Biblioteca Amado Nervo for the highest patron attendance among the public libraries in Mexico City and in the Federal District, for its outreach efforts, and for being well organized and administered. (27)

Library Education in New York City

It was now clear that Juana Manrique de Lara had a talent for making libraries successful. Just as the impact of her public library work was beginning, Torres Bodet offered Manrique de Lara another opportunity: the chance to study library science in the United States. The Mexican government previously had sponsored other librarians on study trips to the United States, such as Carranza's Comisiones Culturales program in 1915, during which Maria Arias Bernal and Agustin Loera y Chavez studied library organization and public library services in Boston and New York City. Manrique de Lara readily accepted the offer and then had to select a school; a decade-old friendship would influence her decision. While attending normal school in Puebla in 1914 Manrique de Lara had become friends with the Valderama family, founders of Puebla's Methodist seminary (a rarity in Catholic Mexico), where a young man, Albert Baez, was studying for the ministry. Baez married Talia, the oldest Valderama daughter, and followed relatives to Brooklyn, where he established and led a Methodist church for Spanish-speaking people for forty-live years. (28)

During her stay in New York from the spring of 1923 through the summer of 1924, Manrique de Lara paid a dollar each month for the room she shared in the Baez home with the younger Valderama sister, Hebe, a social worker. And the entire household helped Manrique de Lara adjust to the new city, country, and culture: Hebe taught her to use the subway to reach the public library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street; Talia helped her register for English classes at the YWCA, where Talia was employed as a social worker; and Albert Jr., later a renowned physicist and environmentalist and father of Joan Baez, the world-famous singer and activist, became Manrique de Lara's good friend. Manrique de Lara was responsible for her travel, lodging, and book expenses. A gift from the Rockefeller family paid tuition for all international students at the school, and as an employee of the DB Manrique de Lara continued to receive her salary, half of which she lived on and the remainder of which her brother in Mexico collected and gave to their mother.

Mexican scholar Estela Morales Campos notes that from their beginnings American library schools tended to stress a technical education over the cultural education found in European schools, where the preservation and interpretation of manuscripts was a focus of the profession. More specifically, she observes that the early emphases of North American schools included the organization of knowledge and an interest in developing library users through working with children. (29) These statements describe well the context Manrique de Lara entered as she began attending classes in New York City early in 1923. Although some of her coursework in New York served to reinforce classes she had taken six years earlier at the Escuela Nacional, Manrique de Lara now was immersed in a greater breadth of topics, such as reference sources, library administration, book selection, government publications, and, true to her experience and writings to date, the courses Libraries in the Community and High School Libraries. Her schooling in New York exposed her to new forms of pedagogy as well: in addition to attending lectures, as she had in Mexico, Manrique de Lara now took part in classes, seminars, and group discussions based on readings and case studies; she visited libraries throughout New York City and toured the Library of Congress and other Washington, D.C., libraries; and she completed a practicum. Courses at the New York Public Library ran for longer periods of time than at the Escuela Nacional in Mexico City, and her classmates included students from France, Chile, Uruguay, Canada, and Russia--that is, students who had traveled thousands of miles to learn in a world-class center of library education. While international students strove to succeed in order to meet their own and their home country's needs and expectations, these students also faced pressure from classmates, teachers, and library school administrators: "Not only [was] the cost of bringing a foreign student to the United States very great, running into several thousands of dollars, but the man hours consumed by the library school teaching personnel in the case of a foreign student [were] at least three times as great as for any individual American student." (30) All students had to pass monthly exams to continue in the program, as more students were always waiting to take the spot of a poorly performing one. Also, students had to know and to translate two foreign languages. Manrique de Lara was skilled enough in English and French to satisfy this requirement, but to sufficiently strengthen her English skills for daily coursework conducted in the language, she took English classes outside the library school.

Throughout her stay in New York Manrique de Lara sent frequent reports to the DB, which Torres Bodet published as articles in El Libro y el Pueblo; thousands of free copies of this bulletin were distributed monthly throughout Mexico and around the world. Her writing from New York was drawn from firsthand experience, and in these articles Manrique de Lara shared the professional ideas and methods she felt were most helpful and suited for her colleagues and countrymen. This correspondence includes the general reports her commission likely required (e.g., "La Biblioteca Publica de Nueva York: Informe al Departamen to de Bibliotecas"), but Manrique de Lara also filed reports of immediate interest to the Mexican library community on topics such as cataloging and classification, book selection, annotating books, organization of libraries, and library education.

Manrique de Lara as Consultant, Teacher, and Writer

When Manrique de Lara returned to Mexico City in 1924, the presidency of Alvaro Obregon was ending, and both Vasconcelos and Torres Bodet would soon leave their administrative posts. The administration of newly elected president Plutarco Elias Calles did not share Vasconcelos's fervent vision that culture could redeem the masses; consequently, the 2,500 libraries the SEP established after 1924 offered mostly technical materials supporting Mexico's new economic policies, and federal budgets for cultural activities were cut nearly in half. (31) Before leaving the federal government to teach French at UNAM, Torres Bodet secured for Manrique de Lara the position of library inspector for the Federal District. In accepting the post, Manrique de Lara entered the higher administrative realm of the DB, now headed by lawyer and journalist Esperanza Velazquez Bringas, also twenty-five years old and the first woman to lead the department. As inspectora de bibliotecas Manrique de Lara visited and worked most closely with libraries in the Federal District surrounding Mexico City, but she also assisted libraries across Mexico, Latin America, and Spain with detailed written responses to inquiries related to technical and professional matters.

Manrique de Lara also had great influence through teaching, carried out in libraries and classrooms and with her pen. In 1925, when the DB opened the Escuela de Bibliotecarios in the Palacio de Bellas Artes for just one year, Manrique de Lara was one of its professors, teaching courses alongside some of her mentors. For the next twenty years she taught introductory and advanced library science classes for library employees; she also designed a successful series of correspondence classes to help rural teachers manage school libraries. While attending El Tercer Congreso Nacional de Bibliotecarios y Primero de Archiveros in October 1944, keynote speaker Jaime Torres Bodet, then head of the SEP, announced the federal government had authorized that preparations begin for a new professional library school in Mexico City. Estela Morales Campos believes that two librarians attending this meeting would have had considerable influence in the formation of a new school: Juana Manrique de Lara and Maria Teresa Chavez, two of the few Mexican librarians who had studied abroad at that time. (32) When the Escuela Nacional de Biblioteconomia y Archivonomia (ENBA) was founded in April 1945, Manrique de Lara was a member of its faculty. For a generation of Mexico's professional and paraprofessional librarians, Manrique de Lara was the teacher of courses such as the organization of libraries, classification, cataloging, and biblioteconomia superior, an advanced class in library science. When Manrique de Lara retired in 1953, the school was beginning its decade of residence on Calle San Ildefonso, one of Mexico City's major streets.

Much of Manrique de Lara's teaching was accomplished through her writing. In 1926 she began publishing articles in Coopera, a government bulletin for teachers, and thus found a new audience for her writings on the educational role of Mexico's libraries. She wrote manuals and texts of increasing length, detail, and sophistication, not because anyone asked her to but because she saw that library science materials were lacking in Mexico and in the Spanish-speaking world. A career-long effort, these writings came from her teaching as well as the topics she had treated earlier in El Libro y el Pueblo and other Mexican government publications. Her first work, a seventy-page booklet for which she sold the literary rights to the publisher, Herrero Hermanos Sucesores of Mexico City, is entitled Nociones elementales para la organizacion y la administration de una pequena biblioteca (Essential Ideas for the Organization and Administration of a Small Library, 1926) and was published two years after she returned from New York. In the booklet's prologue Manrique de Lara noted that the work was intended for use in libraries of up to five thousand volumes--the majority of libraries in the country--and that its "content is within the professional interest of persons working in [Mexico's] libraries, as small libraries have their own set of challenges." (33) The volume's table of contents reflects both Manrique de Lara's study of librarianship in the United States and her understanding that persons working in Mexico's libraries often lacked technical knowledge and training; accordingly, the booklet includes chapters on library administration and organization, classification, buildings and furnishings, book preservation, use of libraries, and book selection.

Manrique de Lara's major written work, Manual del bibliotecario mexicano (Manual of the Mexican Librarian), grew from her booklet to a 235-page text and professional reference that the SEP published in three editions between 1942 and 1967. (34) Jose Alfaro, an employee of the DB for forty-five years and an eventual assistant director, remembered in a 1983 interview that a copy of Manual del bibliotecario mexicano "was included in each lot of books the SEP sent to municipal libraries throughout Mexico, and this was the book that would help the librarians." (35) In addition to the expanded technical sections, Manrique de Lara added a chapter on the history of books, printing, and libraries in and beyond Mexico--cultural background her readers likely lacked. This chapter encouraged an audience larger than any library school class to see themselves as members of a profession with academic and intellectual traditions. Manrique de Lara continued to write books thereafter based on the needs of the libraries across Mexico she supported as inspectora de bibliotecas as well as her own professional interests. Her major works include Elementos de organizacion y administracion de bibliotecas escolares (1929), Guia de encabezamientos de materia para los catalogos diccionarios (1934), Seudonimos, anagramas, iniciales, etc., de autores mexicanos y extranjeros (1943), and Bibliotecas escolares y literatura infantil (1947).

A Professional Colleague

Postrevolutionary Mexico saw the emergence of an industrial class and the development of the professions--lawyers, economists, and managers, for instance. (36) While the rise of the professions in Mexico is discussed in the literature of history, sociology, and economics, little or no mention of the topic appears in library scholarship in English or in Spanish. Latin Americanist Peter S. Cleaves does not mention librarian-ship in his book Professions and the State: The Mexican Case, but he does provide context helpful for understanding Manrique de Lara's methods and manner as she helped advance her profession in Mexico. In the United States and Great Britain, Cleaves points out, professional associations rather than federal departments often craft national policy. This has not been the case in Mexico: following the Mexican Revolution, the "traditional professions" of law, medicine, and engineering aligned with the government, "lending their skills to a consensual model of national development." Mexican professionals have influence through the state as members of the bureaucracy; to succeed, they tend to connect with a power holder within their organization. With the exception of law, Mexican professions tend to depend on knowledge-generated abroad. Finally, "professionals' opportunities to affect public policy have been mostly limited to the implementation rather than the formulation stage." (37)

While much of Cleaves's analysis holds true for Manrique de Lara's career, her history does present at least one noteworthy exception. Although Manrique de Lara was a member of library associations in Mexico and abroad, her professional focus was her daily work in the Biblioteca Nacional, in the Biblioteca Amado Nervo, and as inspactora de bibliotecas. As she created successful services and shared her ideas in newsletters and journals read by library employees across Mexico, the results of her work gained the attention and the respect of Vasconcelos and Torres Bodet, the two top-level administrators for Mexico's libraries. Both men integrated Manrique de Lara's ideas into their work and, accordingly, seemed to have viewed her as a professional colleague rather than just a government employee or administrator. The result of this relationship was that Manrique de Lara, in effect, both formulated and implemented federal policy for Mexico's libraries. Throughout her career Manrique de Lara strove to improve library services for all Mexicans, and she cared more that library reform be realized than rhetoric be championed or that she receive recognition.

Conclusion: "Foremost, to Help"

By the time Manrique de Lara was born in 1897, Melvil Dewey had helped found the American Library Association (1876) and its official publication, Library Journal (1876); he had also established the School for Library Economy at Columbia College in New York City (1887), the first institution for training librarians in the United States. Manrique de Lara did not attend Dewey's school, but in 1926, two years after she finished studies at the Library School of the New York Public Library, her alma mater was moved to Columbia University and combined with the program Dewey had founded and then moved to the New York State Library in Albany. (38) Manrique de Lara's contributions to Mexican librarianship may appear more modest than Dewey's work in the United States. The key, however, to recognizing Manrique de Lara's importance is the fact that she lived and practiced librarianship in Mexico through a period of great political and cultural instability and eventual change. It is important to note as well that Manrique de Lara's passion for books, libraries, and education appears to have sprung from within herself and her family as much as from the time and place in which they lived. Manrique de Lara was given books as gifts by close family members, and her parents ensured that their daughter received a level of schooling rare for most Mexican people at the time, especially women. The enormity of Manrique de Lara's educational accomplishments becomes clear as we note that between 1920 and 1924 only 223 women received university degrees throughout all of Mexico. This rate would double in ten years, as women began to enter the realms of business, education, government service, and medicine. (39)

Seen in this context, Manrique de Lara's dedication and accomplishments emerge as remarkable, even revolutionary. Better than any government bureaucrat or agency, Manrique de Lara understood and responded to the needs of the Mexican people of all ages for reading and for public libraries. Jose Vasconcelos believed zealously in the power of the book and of libraries--even Manrique de Lara used the popular moniker "the father of Mexico's libraries" when referring to him. Both he and colleague Jaime Torres Bodet recognized and rewarded Manrique de Lara for her work and in doing so showed early appreciation for the mission of the professional librarian. (40) In 1948, twenty-four years after Manrique de Lara returned to Mexico City, the director general de profesiones officially recognized library science as a profession, an event culminating decades of work of librarians across Mexico and, in particular, Manrique de Lara's career of teaching and library service. (41)

At age fifty Manrique de Lara married Faustino Roel, a Mexican engineer whom she first met in New York; and at age fifty-four she retired from librarianship due to deteriorating health. Upon her retirement in 1953 both the ENBA and the Asociacion Mexicana de Bibliotecarios conferred emeritus status to Manrique de Lara; she valued most, however, a plaque from appreciative students that praised her "brilliant and superb" teaching of an advanced course in library science. (42) While some scholars consider the cultural projects of Mexico's postrevolutionary government--that is, libraries and the fine arts--to be the most pronounced expressions of nationalism, Manrique de Lara never directly made this connection in her writing or public comments. (43) When she was interviewed at eighty-three years of age, just eight months before her death in October 1983, Juana Manrique de Lara spoke little of the difficulty of completing her education, of pursuing a career, or of helping advance librarianship in Mexico. Rather, she described her life's work as transcending political agendas: she sought "foremost to help, because that is what Mexico needs--people helping one another by setting aside intellectual differences." (44)


The first epigraph, Jose Ortega y Gasset, "Mision del bibliotecario," Revista de Occidente (1935): 47, appears in English as "The Mission of the Librarian," Antioch Review 21, no. 2 (1961): 137. The second epigraph is taken from the interview by Estela Morales Campos, "Entrevista: Juana Manrique de Lara," Investigation Bibliotecologica 1, no. 1 (1983): 13. Unless otherwise documented, all information in this article concerning Manrique de Lara's life and work comes from Morales Campos's interview. All translations are mine.

(1.) Martha Alicia Anorve Guillen, "El despertar de la vocation biblioteconomica de Juana Manrique de Lara (1897-1922) en el marco de las instituciones bibliotecarias de su tiempo" (master's thesis, Facultad de Filosofia y Letras, Division de Estudios de Posgrado, UNAM, 2002); Martha Alicia Anorve Guillen, "Bibliotecas infantiles y juveniles aportacion a la politica bibliotecaria de Vasconcclos, de Juana Manrique de Lara, primera bibliotecaria mexicana," Investigacion Bibliotecologica 16, no. 33 (2002): 38. The authoritative monograph by Guadalupe Quintana Pali, Cristina Gil Villegas, and Guadalupe Tolosa Sanchez, Las bibliotecas publicas en Mexico: 1910-1940 (Mexico City: Direccion General de Bibliotecas, 1988), on the country's public libraries during this time period discusses Manrique de Lara only briefly but provides helpful context for understanding her life and work.

(2.) Michael C. Meyer, William L. Sherman, and Susan L. Deeds, The Course of Mexican History, 8th ed. (NewYork: Oxford University Press, 2007), 410.

(3.) Estadisticas sociales del Porfiriato, 1877-1910, Secretaria de Economia, Direccion General de Estadistica, Mexico, D.F., 1956, 38. See pais/historicas/porfi/ESPI.pdf (accessed June 25, 2009); Meyer, Sherman, and Deeds, Course of Mexican History, 482.

(4.) Quintana Pali, Gil Villegas, and Tolosa Sanchez, Las bibliotecas publicas, 121; Meyer, Sherman, and Deeds, Course of Mexican History, 537.

(5.) Rosa Maria Fernandez de Zamora, "Mexican Library History: A Survey of the Literature of the Last Fifteen Years," Libraries & Culture 32, no. 2 (1997): 241.

(6.) Quintana Pali, Gil Villegas, and Tolosa Sanchez, Las bibliotecas publicas, 70.

(7.) Ibid., 100.

(8.) Juana Manrique de Lara, "Library Work in Mexico," in Public Libraries in Latin American Countries (Washington, D.G.: Pan American Union, 1926), 9.

(9.) Estela Morales Campos, Education bibliolecologica en Mexico. 1915-1954 (Mexico City: UNAM, 1988), 55.

(10.) Otto Granados Roldan and Luis Medina Pena, El proyecto educativo de la revolucion mexicana (Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Servicios Educativos, UAS Editorial, 1992), 47.

(11.) Quintana Pali, Gil Villegas, and Tolosa Sanchez, Las bibliotecas publicas, 122.

(12.) Granados Roldan and Medina Pena, El proyecto educativo, 62.

(13.) Billy F. Cowart, La obra educativa de. Torres Bodet, trans. Arturo Cantu Sanchez (Mexico City: El Colegio de Mexico, 1966), 8-9.

(14.) Manrique de Lara, ''Library Work in Mexico," 10.

(15.) Granados Roldan and Medina Peha, El proyecto educativo, 60.

(16.) Engracia Loyo, Gobiernos revolucionarios y educacion popular en Mexico, 1911-1928 (Mexico City: El Colegio dc Mexico, Ccntro de Estudios Historicos, 1999), 207.

(17.) Anorve Guillen, "El despertar de la vocation," 10-11.

(18.) In April 1915 the Academia de Bibliografia, annexed to the Biblioteca del Pueblo in the coastal city of Veracruz, offered a series of twenty-five lectures on classification. The course was designed for government library employees and public school teachers in Veracruz but was suspended when its teacher, Agustin Loera y Chavez, was given new responsibilities in the federal government. (Morales Campos, Educacion bibliotecologica, 5).

(19.) Juana Manrique de Lara, "The Popular Library Movement in Mexico," Wilson Bulletin for Librarians (April 1935): 409.

(20.) Anorve Guillen, "Propuestas de Juana Manrique de Lara a la politica bibliotecaria de Vasconcelos," Investigation Bibliotecologica 20, no. 41 (2006): 73, (accessed June 25,2009).

(21.) Anorve Guillen, "Bibliotecas infantiles," 29.

(22.) Manrique de Lara's two two-part articles are "Bibliotecas infantiles y juveniles," pt. 1, Biblos, January 22, 1922, 15, and pt. 2, Biblos, February 4, 1922, 18; and "Las bibliotecas publicas y los alumnos de las escuelas preparatorias," pt. 1, Biblos, October 29, 1921, 175, and pt. 2, Biblos, November 5, 1921, 179.

(23.) Two of Manrique de Lara's articles from Biblos include references to mid-nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century French works on libraries and education by writers Jules Simon and Eugene Morel.

(24.) Manrique de Lara, "Las bibliotecas publicas," pt. 2, 179.

(25.) "Informe rendido por la inspeccion del Departamento de Bibliotecas acerca de funcionamiento de las bibliotecas publicas fundadas en la ciudad de Mexico y en algunas poblaciones del Distrito Federal," Boletin de la Secretaria de Education Publica 1, no. 3 (1923): 323-25.

(26.) Juana Manrique de Lara, "Proyecto de reglamento interior para uso de la biblioteca publica 'Amado Nervo,'" El Libro y el Pueblo 1, no. 12 (1923): 203.

(27.) "Informe rendido," 324.

(28.) Marilyn P. Davis, Mexican Voices/American Dreams (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1990), 250-51.

(29.) Morales Campos, Education bibliotecologica, 35.

(30.) "Report of a Conference," American Library Schools, Libraries and the Foreign Library Student Conference, School of Library Services of Columbia University, New York, June 20-22, 1958, 3.

(31.) Quintana Pali, Gil Villegas, and Tolosa Sanchez, Las bibliotecas publicas, 253.

(32.) Morales Campos, Education bibliotecologica, 36.

(33.) Juana Manrique de Lara, Nociones elementales para la organization y la administration de una pequena biblioteca (Mexico City: Herrero Hermanos Sucesores, 1926), 2.

(34.) Juana Manrique de Lara, Manual del bibliotecario mexicano: Obra de consulta para los encargados de bibliotecas publicas (Mexico City: SEP, Direccion de Bibliotecas, 1942).

(35.) Morales Campos, Education bibliotecologica, 58.

(36.) Beatriz Paredes, "La participacion politica de las mujeres profesionales," in Los profesionales mexicanos y las desafios de la modernidad, ed. Rosa Maria Farell (Mexico City: Editorial Diana, 1989), 60-61.

(37.) Peter S. Cleaves, Professions and the State: The Mexican Case (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1987), 3-5, 17-18.

(38.) Melvil Dewey first opened the Columbia College School of Library Economy on January 5, 1887. "Two years later, Dewey resigned from Columbia to assume the position of Director of the New York State Library in Albany. Before he left, he insured that his young library school also moved to Albany where it became an adjunct of the New York State Library and was renamed the New York State Library School. This two-year program remained in Albany until 1926 when the State Board of Regents and Columbia University's Board of Trustees combined the School with the Library School of the New York Public Library and moved it once again to Columbia University" (Jared Parker, "Finding Aid for the School of Information Science and Policy Records, 1926-1986," University Libraries, University at Albany-State University of New York, http:// [accessed June 25, 2009]).

(39.) Meyer, Sherman, and Deeds, Course of Mexican History, 541.

(40.) Morales Campos, "Entrevista," 21.

(41.) Morales Campos, Education bibliotecologica, 65.

(42.) Morales Campos, "Entrevista," 18.

(43.) Granados Roldan and Medina Pena, El proyecto educativo, 47.

(44.) Morales Campos, "Entrevista," 13.

Libraries & the Cultural Record, Vol. 45, No. 4, 2010

[c] 2010 by the University of Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713-7619

Cita de fuente   (MLA 8.a edición)
Jones, Phillip. "The mission of 'Little Star': Juana Manrique de Lara's contributions to Mexican librarianship." Libraries and the Cultural Record, vol. 45, no. 4, 2010, p. 469+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 20 Nov. 2018.

Número de documento de Gale: GALE|A241773452