February 16, 2018

Marcelino Ugalde | Movers & Shakers 2003

International Sleuth

“I’m the detective here,” says Marcelino Ugalde. “That’s the most exciting element of my job. There aren’t a whole lot of collection building tools” in Basque studies. In other specialized areas, he says, “there is enough of a base of professors and scholars who have created appropriate bibliographies.” His focus is “growing the best, the most comprehensive collection devoted to Basques in the Diaspora.”

By his own admission, Ugalde never had a “huge calling” to become a librarian. He took his first job in the profession as an undergraduate when he developed an interest in his own heritage. It was just coincidence that he studied at the University of Nevada at Reno, home to the sole U.S. center for Basque studies. As a freshman he sought student employment in the Basque library while completing his bachelor’s degrees in biology and education.

After a stint as a high school Spanish teacher, his interest in Basque issues drew him back to the University of Nevada. In 2000, Ugalde became only the third person in the Basque Center’s history to hold the position of librarian in one of the nation’s most unusual collections. It houses, among other things, the only U.S. repository of Basque-language films and an assortment of arboglyphs – the carvings of Basque shepherds preserved on quaking aspen trunks that are found throughout the American West.

To keep both the collection and the field of Basque studies growing, Ugalde works with a network of scholars and collectibles dealers in Central and South America, Australia, the United States, and Canada. Together, they identify and locate items such as postcards, correspondence, diaries, periodicals, and the ledgers of Basque boarding houses.

His dogged pursuit of Basque materials has yielded items completely forgotten by history. Recently he located a periodical called Eskual Herria – meaning “the Basque country” – that was published by a French Basque community in the Rio de la Plata region of Argentina. “What a jewel,” Ugalde exclaims. “I don’t know of any libraries in Argentina that have it, and it’s not in any bibliographies.”


Current Position: Basque Studies Librarian, University Library, University of Nevada, Reno

Degree: MA, Library Science, University of Arizona, 1995