PACSCL Spotlight: Amplifying BIPOC Voices in the Field

An interview with Josué Luis Hurtado

What is your role?

I’m the Coordinator of Public Services and Outreach at Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center.

How did you get into the field?

I started working in the university library as a student worker during my undergraduate years. At first, I worked at the reserves desk at night, but I learned about an opening in the Special Collections that paid more, so I applied. I was exposed to amazing materials and dedicated staff members. I was instantly hooked and never really wanted to leave. 

What is your favorite collection item at your institution? 

Ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably give you a different answer, but I’d say my favorite item at the moment is probably from the SCRC’s pamphlet collection. There’s a pamphlet from the late 1940s by the Philadelphia Parking Authority that depicts the traffic menace, embodied as a snake strangling the skyline of Philadelphia. It’s full of quotes from old-timers lamenting the current state of traffic in Center City and advocating for more parking lots. Lots and lots of parking lots.  Aside from being an interesting document of post-war development boosterism, the typography and design are fantastic, and it’s loaded with all sorts of embedded assumptions and perspectives, which makes it useful as a teaching tool.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve come across while working in GLAM institutions?

The most surprising thing I’ve come across working in a GLAM institution was probably Allen Ginsburg’s sneakers and beard trimmings.  

Tell us about your experience in the library field?

My experience in the library field has been rewarding and challenging. Like many of my colleagues, I’ve experienced precarity working on project positions, as well as more stable work in academic libraries. Likewise, I’ve also been subject to the whims of the economy and experienced furloughs and having to “do more with less.” Still, without succumbing to vocational awe (thanks Fobazi Ettarh for giving a name to this concept), I feel like I’ve been really lucky and I enjoy the work I do. Financial support from the Spectrum Scholarship (American Library Association) really helped propel me early in graduate school and immediately after early in my career, as did the Society of American Archivist’s Pinkett Award. I do think the profession still has a long way to go to more accurately reflect the diversity of our society and to improve the working conditions of all library workers. 

How do you think your experience as BIPOC influences your work as a GLAM professional?

I think it has allowed me to see GLAM institutions from a different perspective than they typically see themselves and made me very aware of how such institutions can be perceived as intimidating or unwelcoming. I’ve tried my best to break down that perception but I know I can always do more. 

If you weren’t a librarian or archivist what would you want to be?

Park Ranger. Commercial fisherman. Journalist?

If you could give advice to emerging professionals, what would it be?

Don’t hesitate to question conventional wisdom in the field, and think critically about why things are done the way they are. I wish someone had told me this earlier in my career. 

What are you currently reading or listening to?

Reading: “The Age of Revolution: Europe: 1789–1848” (Hobsbawm); “Station Eleven” (St. John Mandel); My good friend Vanessa Hua’s upcoming novel, “Forbidden City.” Listening to: Know Your Enemy Podcast; Revolutions Podcast on the Russian Revolution; classic ambient instrumental stuff to get me through these troubling times; Brian Eno, John Hassell, etc.

What are three things you enjoy outside of work?

Fishing, baseball, reading, hiking.

What is your personal philosophy?

Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Where would you like to go on a dream vacation?

Walking the Camino de Santiago via the Camino Frances.

What have you always wanted to try but never have?

Scuba diving.

You’re happiest when…

I’m in the outdoors with my family, hiking, fishing, paddling…