"While I’ve seen other colleagues come and go as indexers, it never occurred to me to stop being a volunteer indexer. It’s an enjoyable form of continuing education," remarks Gayle Williams.
International Institute, July 24, 2013 — To call their service a labor of love would be an understatement. Two university librarians, Gayle Williams of Florida International University (FIU) and Nancy Hallock of Harvard University, have been indexing journals as volunteers for the Hispanic American Periodicals Index (HAPI) for more than a quarter of a century.
HAPI is a proprietary online bibliographic database of the University of California that provides access to information from and about Latin America, the Caribbean, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and Hispanic/Latino culture in the United States. Created by Barbara Valk at Arizona State University in 1973, the index moved to the UCLA Latin American Center (now the Latin American Institute) soon thereafter, thanks to a grant from the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities.
Williams, who is Latin American and Caribbean Information Services Librarian at FIU, has indexed publications for HAPI for virtually her entire professional life. She celebrates 35 years of service this year. Hallock, who is Manager for Monographic Acquisitions and Copy Cataloging/Americas and Europe 2 at Harvard University College Library, where she has worked for many years, celebrates her 30th year of service in 2013.
Together with 32 other volunteers, Williams and Hallock keep HAPI the leading index in the field of Latin American studies, one recognized for its expert subject indexing.
“When my Harvard colleague, Cheryl LaGuardia, named HAPI one of the top electronic reference sources of 2002 in Library Journal,” says Hallock, “I swear I had nothing to do with it! It pleasantly reinforced what I knew: that HAPI is a valuable reference source, which has grown with the times from a print index whose indexers mailed in typed forms (yes, I remember those days!) to an online resource with links to full text for many of the articles indexed.”
Professional interest and service unite in two generous women
Gayle Williams set out to become a Latin American studies bibliographer.
Gayle Williams set out to become a Latin American studies bibliographer after receiving her Master of Library Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1977. Soon she was a volunteer indexer for HAPI.
“The idea of indexing appealed to me” she remarks. A cataloger at the University of Texas’s Benson Latin American Collection when she began with HAPI, she recalls, “I didn’t mind the idea of staying a little longer at the Benson after work in order to do my indexing, since I was already in the habit of lingering at the periodical shelves to read from the collection’s vast array of journals from just about everywhere in Latin America.
“HAPI is a standby to my work,” comments Williams. “Articles I’ve indexed will mention book titles that I decide to buy for the collection; I’ve done HAPI searches to identify other material I might need to buy. . . . When I work with a graduate student one-on-one or teach a library instruction class, HAPI is almost always the first database I demonstrate. “
In addition to her professional work and volunteer indexing, Williams has also served as president of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM), an international organization of librarians and book dealers who work on the development of Latin American collections. In fact, it was a notice in the organization’s newsletter that first alerted Williams to HAPI’s need for indexers. She has also served as Project Coordinator of the Center for Resource Libraries’ Latin American Research Resources Project.
“It’s somewhat bittersweet for me to celebrate my 35th anniversary as a HAPI indexer in the same year that Barbara Valk passed away,” says Williams. “Barbara became a close friend, mentor and confidante, and we remained in touch after her retirement. I don’t think I can get to another 35 years as an indexer, but I’ll continue indexing with Barbara’s memory in mind and a commitment to continue supporting a valuable research tool,” she adds.
Nancy Hallock began a master's degree in Latin American studies, then switched to a library program.
Nancy Hallock started out pursuing a master’s degree in Latin American studies at the University of Arizona. “Then,” she recounts, “I discovered larger academic libraries had subject specialists—my undergraduate degree was from a small liberal arts college—and, also, U of A had a Library School! I transferred into the program with hopes that my language and subject skills would prove useful in a library career.”
Like Williams, Hallock came to HAPI via SALALM, which she joined as a graduate student. Recruited at an annual conference, she recalls, “I had used HAPI as a student and knew its worth; as a cataloger it seemed a perfect match for providing a professional contribution, so I signed on.” She has been an active member of SALALM throughout her career, serving on its Executive Board, various committees and editing its newsletter for five years.
After starting her career as a Latin American cataloguer at the University of Pittsburgh, Hallock eventually moved to Harvard College Library. There, she began as a cataloguer and supervisor for the Spanish and Portuguese cataloguing team. Today, she oversees both acquisitions and copy cataloguing for Latin America, Spain and Portugal, among other duties.
Although Hallock says she temporarily “resigned” as a HAPI volunteer when she first joined the Harvard College Library, she notes, “Within the year I was back, with a revised list of titles to index. Harvard’s list of periodical subscriptions was so extensive it seemed perverse not to assist HAPI with some of the lesser-held titles!”
HAPI from inside out
HAPI is the cornerstone of the publications program of the Latin American Institute of UCLA. The index includes complete bibliographic citations and subject indexing for articles, original literary works, documents and other materials that appear in over 650 leading scholarly journals in the social sciences and humanities in 35 countries around the world.
The index has been online for 15 years (since 1998) and ceased hard-copy publishing in 2011. The scope of HAPI — indeed, its very existence — is dependent on 35 dedicated experts like Williams and Hallock, who volunteer their time and energy to keep it updated. The index’s online database presently contains roughly 300,000 records dating from 1970 to the present, with full-text links to almost 100,000 articles and other printed matter.
Some 7,000 records are added to HAPI annually. Three paid staff members, all credentialed librarians who work out of the UCLA Latin American Institute, create and index content, edit the work of volunteers and manage database development.
Volunteers generally agree to index six journal titles, many of which are published several times a year. Although indexing becomes increasingly easy with familiarity, this work can nevertheless consume hours or even days of one's time over the course of a year. (Williams has indexed two journals — Jamaica Journal and Caribbean Studies — for over 30 years apiece!)
HAPI volunteers are all librarians or professors with extensive subject knowledge of Latin American history, society and literature. Most reside in the United States, but others live in Latin America and Europe. Many volunteers have native or near-native proficiency in the languages in which they index, which include Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Italian and English.
“Barbara Valk created a set of guidelines and subject headings that HAPI volunteer indexers had to follow,” says Williams. “Those guidelines have been maintained by her successor, Orchid Mazurkiewicz, who works collaboratively with the volunteers.
“At the annual indexing meeting [held at the annual SALALM conference], indexers have the opportunity to seek clarification about certain procedures and request updating others,” Williams adds. “Orchid and her associate editors listen carefully and patiently with the goal of everyone coming away with increased awareness of consistent practices that aren’t necessarily written in stone.“
Both Williams and Hallock continue to index both as a service to the field and because it keeps them engaged at the ground level. As Hallock explains, “I rarely do the original cataloging anymore [at my job]. Indexing for HAPI makes me feel like I still have my hand in. And, after so many years, it’s simply become part of what I do!”
“While I’ve seen other colleagues come and go as indexers, it never occurred to me to stop being a volunteer indexer,” says Williams. “It’s an enjoyable form of continuing education that allows me to have an ongoing view of how research on Latin America and the Caribbean has changed, as well as keeping up in my own particular subject interests. “
Williams catches the dedication and generosity that drive these two exceptional volunteers when she says, “I still hold to the idea that while I’ve been fortunate to develop the professional career I wanted, I also need to give back. Being a volunteer indexer for HAPI is my particular contribution to building sources on Latin America and the Caribbean.”
The Latin American Institute salutes Gayle Williams and Nancy Hallock for their years of dedication to HAPI and thanks them profusely for all their hard work. Without the contributions of experts like you, HAPI would not be the recognized index that it is today. Thank you!