Alumnus Joseph Sanchez Engages Community as Public Library Director in Colorado
Alumnus Joseph Sanchez is settling into his new role as director of Mesa County Libraries, forging local connections aimed at improving library services. Since starting in August 2013 at the seven-branch system based in Grand Junction, Colorado, Sanchez has focused on outreach to local artists, schools, businesses and other sectors of the community, and has been busy developing a range of new collaborative programs.
When the library’s previous director told Sanchez she was planning to retire, he jumped at the chance to apply for the job. The region on the western slope of the Rockies, with its natural beauty and rich local history, had always appealed to him as a great place to live and work.
“It’s big enough to have enough people that I can experiment with some things and try some new programs,” Sanchez said, “and it’s small enough that I can get people’s attention and actually make those things happen.”
One of those “experiments” he’s working on is developing a full-scale production studio. “It’s not a ‘maker’ space,” Sanchez explained. According to Sanchez’ vision for the production studio, library staff will go out in the field with local artists, musicians and videographers and develop their content with them. The artists will donate a copy of their work to the library, which would catalog it and make it accessible. The library also will promote the artists’ work to the community.
“So what I’m working on is finding valuable content in the community and making it more public and accessible,” he said.
The library system is also developing partnerships with the school district and other entities such as the local arts center and independent radio station. The idea is that by aligning services, they can make content available to more people.
The library system just remodeled its main branch, the Central Library in Grand Junction, and is trying to expand existing services. Sanchez said there’s a high demand in the community for tech training beyond the introductory level, so the libraries are offering higher-level Web classes to meet that demand.
“We’re trying to get out more into the community,” Sanchez said. “We’re doing some work with the local business incubator and some of their small businesses, figuring out ways the libraries can get outside their walls and support the business environment.”
Sanchez’ prior experience includes serving as the library and resources director at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado, from 2006 to 2011, and as an instructional designer at Auraria Library in Denver from 2011 to 2013.
Besides working in both public and academic library settings, Sanchez has extensive experience as a college instructor. In fact, he taught INFO 246 Information Technology Tools and Applications – Advanced (social media and Web 2.0 applications) at our school during the 2013-2014 academic year. He also taught at the University of Denver’s information school for about four years.
His long-term goal is simple, whether his career takes him into an academic or public library or the classroom: “Doing something that’s rewarding and valuable in the information profession. That’s what’s important for me.”
A 2006 graduate of our school’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program, Sanchez didn’t initially plan to enter the information field. He earned a bachelor’s in history from California State University – San Marcos in 2000, and expected to pursue a doctorate in history and become a professor. In the meantime, he took a job at a library’s tech desk and found he liked it.
“I was encouraged very strongly by the director and the principle librarian to pursue a library science degree because they thought I’d be good at it,” he said. “In particular, they thought I’d be a good director. It’s a fortuitous situation, as I really enjoy the work very, very much.”
“The online search, information retrieval, and information architecture courses were very valuable. Those are the ones that really stand out as particularly valuable to me over the course of my career.”
“Get as much experience as you can before applying for a professional, full-time career. Even if it’s just at a library shelving books, it’s still incredibly valuable compared to not having that experience.”
“Be tech-savvy, but more importantly, know how to distill and communicate that knowledge to someone who isn’t. I think for the next 10 years at least, that ability to communicate technology skills and technology training in simple layman terms will be invaluable in the information field.”
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