Access to the College Green area of campus will be restricted until further notice. PennCard holders and some Penn affiliates may enter and exit Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center through the Rosengarten Undergraduate Study Center on the ground floor, and may enter and exit the Fisher Fine Arts Library through the 34th Street entrance to Meyerson Hall. See our Service Alerts for details.

Accordion List

The Latin American collections at the Penn Libraries support the University's academic programs, including undergraduate major and minor degrees in Latin American Studies, graduate certificates, and doctoral programs in Anthropology, History, Sociology, Romance Languages, Political Science, and Linguistics, among other departments. Other users of the collection include Music, Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies, Religious Studies, Education, Social Work, Communication, Environmental Studies, the interdepartmental program in International Relations, and the Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies. As of 2022-2023 there are approximately seventy faculty affiliated with the Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies (CLALS).  

Penn was among the nation's first universities to offer courses on Latin American subjects, and through the first decades of the 20th century there was continuing interest in the area, particularly in History, Political Science, and Anthropology. Apart from the strong commitment to archaeological work in Mesoamerica sponsored by the University Museum, Penn's interest in the area declined after World War II, but its importance within the curriculum has rebounded sharply since the 1980s. The numbers of faculty and graduate students working in the area have grown, and major and minor undergraduate programs in Latin American Studies have been implemented. The establishment of Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies in 2021 evidences the increased campus interest and engagement in Latin America. 

Penn's Latin American collections date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At the time they emphasized history, contemporary politics and government, and materials relating to indigenous peoples and languages. In addition, the long tradition of excellence at Penn in the field of peninsular Spanish literature guaranteed that Spanish-language literature of the Americas would be collected at a respectable level. Extraordinary special collections, such as the Berendt-Brinton Linguistic Collection, which contains grammars and lexicons of Native American languages, and the Henry Charles Lea Library Collection, with its materials on the Inquisition and the late medieval and early modern Catholic Church, also gave shape to what would become areas of strength in the general collections. An extended period of reduced interest in the region between the 1940s and 1980s affected the quality of the collections, though areas of strength remained. 

Recent collecting reflects the vigorous state of Latin American scholarship on campus. Emphasis has been given to ethnography and archaeology, colonial history and ethnohistory, and literature. Other areas receiving significant attention include folklore, sociology, political science, education, music, religion, economics and business, and communications and media. Though the largest number of Latin American related titles are held in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, one of the strongest collections is in the Penn Museum Library, which excels in Mesoamerican archaeology, languages, and codices. Significant holdings can also be found in the Fisher Fine Arts Library, the Albrecht Music Library, and the Biddle Law Library. An example special collection, the Sydney S. Keil Collection of Latin Americana, complements current research emphases on colonial history, especially Mexican. The Keil collection includes 17th through mid-19th century materials from Mexico and South America.  

The Libraries’ current objectives include improving areas of long-term strength and raising the level of collections in modern history, colonial history of areas beyond Mexico, sociology, political science, and folklore. There is a particular emphasis in developing interdisciplinary collections of Indigenous and Afro-Latinx studies, global diasporas, and social movements. The Libraries’ strategic priorities indicate the need for a focus on the acquisition of distinctive materials produced by marginalized populations and highlighting minoritized voices in Latin American and the Caribbean. There are also current and future opportunities to contribute to Latin Americanist scholarly communities through the support of open access (such as the CLACSO project piloted through the Latin American Research Resources Project) and post-custodial digitization partnership collection models.  

1. Chronological 

All periods. 

 2. Formats 

Monographs and serials, in hardcopy and in electronic form. Films and other audiovisual materials as appropriate. Select ephemeral materials in collaboration with the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts. 

 3. Geographical 

The libraries acquire imprints from Latin America and selectively from the United States and from Spain, Portugal, and other countries of western Europe. 

 4. Language 

Spanish, Portuguese, English, and Indigenous languages, primarily, and, when appropriate, French, Italian, German, and other western European languages.  

 5. Publication dates 

Emphasis is on current materials, although selective retrospective purchasing is undertaken as needed to supplement past periods of lower collecting in areas now regarded as significant for research.  

The Libraries utilizes five approval plans for Latin American Studies. Latin American Book Store provides current Spanish-language publications for the following Latin American subjects: language and literature, colonial history and ethnohistory, and folklore. Susanne Bach supplies the Libraries with folklore, ethnohistory, and other titles from Brazil. Vientos Tropicales provides social sciences and humanities monographs from Central America. Libros de Todo Mexico supplies a small number of history and social science titles published in Northern Mexico. Gavilanes Books from Indoamerica provides a small number of limited-run artists' books from Cuba. The Libraries uses many other book dealers for additional current and retrospective titles from throughout Latin American and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. 

Anthropology is collected at an elevated level in collaboration with the Penn Museum Library. Collecting in Art in collaboration with the Fisher Fine Arts Library is selective but increasing. Economics and Education materials are collected at a basic level, as these subjects are served well by their general subject collections. Folklore and history are collected to support instructional needs with research level collecting for specific countries, particularly Mexico and Brazil. Literature is collected at the instructional support level, with particular emphasis on specific authors and literary movements. Music is collected at a basic level in cooperation with the Albrecht Music Library. Philosophy and Religion are collected at the basic support level, with some exceptions that are collected more intensively. Political Science and Sociology are collected to support instructional needs and specific areas of emphasis for research needs. 

Hard sciences, contemporary popular and children’s literature, and textbooks are excluded, though there are exceptions in each case. 

The Libraries participates in regional and national consortia, including LANE (Latin American Libraries Northeast Consortium), LAMP (Latin American Materials Project), the Latin Americanist Research Resources Project (LARRP), and Ivy Plus. Through these commitments, the Penn Latin Americanist community has easier access to a wide variety of resources, while allowing the Libraries to focus on building on areas of strength. Through small pilot collaborative collection development programs via membership in LARRP and Ivy Plus, Penn Libraries can specialize in thematic or geographic areas and rely on partner institutions through consortial borrowing. In addition, there are other excellent Latin American collections within the region, including Temple University, Princeton University, the Library of Congress, and the primarily colonial period holdings of the American Philosophical Society