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Pitt dedicates Latin American Reading Room at library

Thursday, September 26, 2002

By Monica L. Haynes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

When Eduardo Lozano arrived at the University of Pittsburgh in 1967 to help develop a Latin American collection in conjunction with the university's new Center for Latin American Studies, he was only supposed to stay for a year.

More than 30 years later, Lozano, librarian for Latin American Studies at Pitt, is still working on what has become the eighth largest collection of Latin American resource materials -- literature, periodicals, dissertations, maps, recordings, videos and films -- in the United States.

Yesterday, he and about 70 others dedicated the center's Latin American Reading Room, which has been at least a decade in the making. The reading room, located on the first floor of Pitt's Hillman Library, houses only a fraction of the collection's 420,000 volumes, from every country in Central and South America.

People from all over the world come to Pitt to use the collection's material on Bolivia, said Lozano, a native of Argentina.

"We've been talking about a room ever since I came here eight years ago -- I think even before I came here," said Rush Miller, director of Pitt's University Library Services. The [Center for Latin American Studies] wanted a more visible center in the library for Latin American students."

When the library moved a collection from the first floor into the Cup and Chaucer Cafe on the lower level, space became available for the Latin American reading room.

With its sand-colored arches and columns and windows on three sides, the room, designed by Peruvian native Victor Beltran of L.D. Astorino & Associates Ltd. of Pittsburgh, is reminiscent of a Spanish courtyard.

Beltran said because the Spanish arches and columns are so much a part of Latin American architecture, he wanted to use them to create a space that would make Latin American students and professors feel at home.

"It's wonderful to have a space that's a tangible manifestation of our program," said Kathleen DeWalt, director of the Center for Latin American Studies.

She said such a room has been the dream of each of her predecessors, including her husband, Billie DeWalt, who headed the center for eight years before becoming director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

"This is exactly the kind of thing we envisioned when we started out four or five years ago," said Billie DeWalt, who was instrumental in getting the project started.

Brazilian native Haydee Esteves Belda, who with husband Alain Belda, chairman and chief executive officer of Alcoa, is among the room's funders, said, "I think this is so important for the city and for the university and for Latin America to be represented in this fashion. Our culture is in very good hands here."

Monica Haynes can be reached at mhaynes@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1660.

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