Cuban Heritage Collection Gets New Chair

Maria R. Estorino named Esperanza Bravo de Varona Chair of the CHC.

Coral Gables (June 17, 2013) — Maria R. Estorino learned three important lessons from Esperanza Bravo de Varona, the longtime head of the University of Miami Libraries’ Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC).

“The first is that being passionate about what you do makes for a more successful and rewarding career. The second is to be persistent, to have a goal and continually work towards it no matter what obstacles arise. And the third: to value relationships and the importance of person-to-person contact,” Estorino explained.

A librarian associate professor who started working at the University of Miami Libraries in 2001, Estorino will now have the opportunity to apply those lessons on a new level. She has been appointed the Esperanza Bravo de Varona Chair of the CHC, succeeding the recently retired professor who established the collection and for whom the endowed chair is named.

In her new role, Estorino will provide leadership for the development of the CHC as a center for scholarly inquiry and for its continued growth as the premier collection in the United States on Cuba and its Diaspora. She will manage resources, programs, and services that include collection development, preservation and access, digital initiatives, research services, teaching and learning, and outreach, all with an emphasis on expanding the reach of the CHC within the University and the broader scholarly community.

“Maria’s contributions are extensive and commendable, and her knowledge of and experience in the CHC could not be overlooked as we considered a successor for the position of chair,” said Acting Dean and University Librarian Yolanda Cooper. “She has a unique and an impressive combination of leadership skills and expertise associated with the curation of special collections and archives as well as 12 years of service and experience with the UM Libraries and the University.”

Estorino said she is “honored” to be appointed chair of the CHC and to be “entrusted with such an important legacy.”

“This is a very exciting time for the Cuban Heritage Collection, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead it into the future. With the support of The Goizueta Foundation, we have been able to position the collection as an intellectual center on this campus and in the broader scholarly community.” She said the CHC is creating programs around its carefully curated collections as part of a strategy to extend its reach on campus and beyond, noting the new Graduate Fellowships and Undergraduate Scholars initiatives.

“And we continue to digitize our unique holdings so that users anywhere in the world can have access to our research collections,” said Estorino. “Our fundamental commitment to preserving Cuba’s history and culture will continue to drive the work we do to expand our collections, services, and programs.”

A Miami native, Estorino joined the faculty of the University of Miami Libraries in 2001 as project director for a grant-funded digitization initiative. She then served as archivist for the Cuban Heritage Collection from 2003 to 2005 and as interim head of Special Collections from 2005 to 2007. She returned to the Cuban Heritage Collection in 2007 as deputy chair and chief operations manager.

Estorino said she will always value the lessons learned not only from Bravo de Varona but also from Lesbia Orta Varona, the CHC’s bibliographer and reference librarian who also recently retired from UM after 46 years of service. The importance of maintaining relationships, Estorino said, is one of the most important lessons she learned.

“Technology is pervasive in our work, whether we’re creating access to our materials online or communicating by email,” she explained. “But the importance of person-to-person contact cannot be overstated. Relationships need to be nurtured and sustained. And sometimes a researcher’s questions cannot be answered by an online catalog, or a donor wants to hear the voice of the person who will take responsibility for the family treasures they want to give. And so you must always make time for that phone call or face-to-face meeting.”

Prior to joining the UM Libraries, Estorino worked at the Northeastern University Libraries, Massachusetts Historical Society, and Blackside, Inc. She received a Master of Arts in History from Northeastern University and a Master of Science in Library Science from Simmons College. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Loyola University New Orleans.

Estorino is a member of the Society of American Archivists, in which she has served in several roles, most recently on the Diversity Committee and as the elected chair of the 2011 Nominating Committee.  She was treasurer of the Society of Florida Archivists from 2001 to 2008 and served on the Florida State Historical Records Advisory Board from 2002 to 2004. Additionally, she is a member of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Latin American Studies Association.


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Maria Estorino, left, teaches Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez how to search for materials in the Cuban Heritage Collection’s extensive digital archives. Sánchez visited the CHC last March.

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