Who We Are: Joseph Sanchez

Skateboarder, optimist, and library leader

Photography by  Cat Mayer

Photography by Cat Mayer

Exciting things are happening at Mesa County Libraries. For patrons, side-stepping a beehive of activity and circling for a parking space have become regular affairs. Not that anyone’s complaining. Program and event attendance for 2017 is estimated at 60,000, surpassing the 2016 record of 40,000.

    Joseph Sanchez is one cause for the commotion. In his four years as director of Mesa County Libraries, Sanchez has made tough decisions behind the scenes while hiring good people, harnessing their creativity and passion, inspiring and guiding them, and then getting out of their way. He’s extremely proud of the work they do.

    From his start as an at-risk youth in Escondido, California, to his career in Mesa County, Sanchez credits his life’s path to amazing mentors who taught him to think outside the box, invest time in others, and act with respect, honesty, and integrity.

    Sanchez’s parents were avid readers who took him on weekly library outings from a young age. As a child, Sanchez devoured books. At 13, he began taking himself via skateboard. When the library opened a used bookstore, he recalls, “I went crazy.” 

A senior volunteer befriended her unlikely teen patron, saving special books for him. “It was incredible to own my own copies of books by classic authors,” Sanchez recalls. “It was like Paris for me, because otherwise I could never have afforded them. Literature triggers something wonderful, and I’ve always loved that feeling.”

    Clearly, the library is a good fit for this bookworm who describes himself as creative, optimistic, and curious. But, first and foremost, Sanchez considers himself a skateboarder. “I still think and feel most comfortable with the skateboarding community and in that culture,” says Sanchez. “There’s a unique immediate fraternity. They all know me at the Orchard Mesa Skate Park. No matter what’s going on, the world stops spinning and we’re all just having fun together.”

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    Since moving to the Grand Valley, Sanchez and his family have also loved taking advantage of the other outdoor activities the area has to offer. “People travel thousands of miles to see places like this, and it’s in our backyard. It’s ridiculously gorgeous,” he says. “Outdoor Life and Field and Stream have consistently ranked Mesa County in the top 10 hunting and fishing communities. There is so much economic value here — it’s huge!”