I AM SO PROUD to feature the Benson Centennial in Portal. While it is impossible to tell the complete story of this great library in a single issue, nearly every piece of this edition provides a glimpse of what has been created over the past one hundred years, from the foundational Genaro García Collection to the addition of the Ernesto Cardenal papers and the launch of innovative digital resources like our Latin American Digital Initiatives (LADI) repository.
I certainly did not imagine preparing for Centennial celebrations in such unprecedented times. Every aspect of our work at the Benson is being shaped by our current environment: a global pandemic, a profound financial crisis, and a large-scale, intensified movement for racial justice. While each of us is experiencing this moment as individuals, I am proud that the entire LLILAS Benson team is engaged in refining our thinking about the ways we reach our communities (local and global) in digital spaces and the ways our collections and services can better support marginalized groups.
The Benson has had a longstanding commitment to preserving and documenting Latin American and U.S. Latinx experiences in support of social justice, cultural agency, and civil and human rights. Especially in the last decade, we have shifted how we think about the preservation of cultural heritage, privileging horizontal partnerships in Latin America and facilitating post-custodial collection development (see the article by David Bliss). We have also entered into a dynamic partnership with Black Studies, launching the Black Diaspora Archive, which documents the Black experience throughout the Americas.
LLILAS Benson’s Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) is a National Science Foundation preferred repository and the world’s largest digital archive documenting Indigenous Latin American languages, making new materials in a variety of media available to researchers on a regular basis. Yet as proud as I am of these initiatives, now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back. We know there is more to be done, and this essential work of broadening our vision for collection development to reflect the experiences of the communities we serve is the work that will carry the Benson into its second century.
This issue of Portal is a tribute to our dedicated colleagues, past and present, who put their hearts and souls into building and preserving meaningful, diverse research collections and opening them up to the world; and to the students, faculty, and visiting researchers (physical and virtual) who engage with us and challenge us. Finally, this issue is a tribute to my friend and colleague Ginny Garrard, who has never wavered in her commitment to the Benson, and who has worked side by side with me for four years to deepen the LLILAS Benson partnership, a crowning achievement of the Benson’s first century and one that will shape its legacy for the next 100 years and beyond.
MELISSA GUY, Nettie Lee Benson Librarian and Director