February 17, 2018

Virginia Sanchez | Movers & Shakers 2010 – Advocates

Library Journal March 15, 2010: Virginia Sanchez, Mover & Shaker

Operation Literacy

As a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst stationed for ten months at Camp Blackhorse outside Kabul, Afghanistan, Virginia Sanchez used the base library because it was “the only place with a smooth floor large enough for me to practice my karate drills.” But the California native, a reference librarian, also noticed that “the shelves were packed with books every which way.” Sanchez characteristically took charge. She organized the books, set up webcam sessions so soldiers and sailors could read bedtime stories to their kids back home, and spearheaded the delivery of book donations for the mostly male troops, who wanted nonfiction, from Operation Paperback and Books for Troops.

She was almost too successful in her book drive: the base couldn’t handle the huge influx of volumes, so Sanchez arranged for them to go to an English-language training institute for Afghans. “It’s another way for me to contribute to homeland security,” says Sanchez, who firmly believes that “books not bombs” will make the difference in Afghanistan.

She’s still collecting and sending books to her old base but in much smaller doses.

After returning to the United States, Sanchez worked as a department librarian at the Brewitt Neighborhood Library in Long Beach (and now she’s a substitute librarian in Long Beach) before being recruited as an intelligence analyst for the Department of Immigration, Customs and Enforcement last December. But she’s still involved in the battle against illiteracy. In presentations to women’s groups, like the Women’s Assistance League of Long Beach, she often starts her presentations by “passing around a brochure written in Dari” to show what illiteracy feels like.

Growing up, “I was a troubled 12-year-old, and books were always my refuge,” she says. A supportive Long Beach children’s librarian “put book after book into my hands, then let me volunteer. I was smitten.” Now, says Sanchez, “no matter where I am, I see myself in the role of librarian.”


Virginia Sanchez, Long Beach Public Library, CA; Department of Immigration, Customs & Enforcement

CURRENT POSITION General Librarian/Intelligence Analyst

DEGREE MA, Information Resources and Library Science, University of Arizona, 2004

NEWEST ADDITION A 2009 Harley-Davidson 1200 Custom Sportster