Q&A with Javier Barrios, interviewed by Tommy Vinh Bui (2015)

Javier Barrios is a librarian for the Writers Guild Library in Los Angeles, California. The Writers Guild Library is the world’s only library and archive devoted entirely to writing for the screen and endeavors to preserve and promote the history and craft of screenwriting. He’s keenly well-versed in past and current writing trends which makes him a valued asset to library patrons and emerging writers. Some of the library’s initiatives include the Veterans Writing Project and Volunteer and Mentorship Programs. Javier studied screenwriting at the University of Southern California and is pursuing a television writing career.

Javier is interviewed by Tommy Vinh Bui, a 2015 Spectrum Scholar. Tommy is currently a librarian for the Los Angeles County Library and was a 2018-19 Arts for LA Cultural Policy Fellow for the City of Inglewood. He also served on a 2020 Innovation + Intersections Grant panel for the California Arts Council. Tommy earned his MA in English Literature from California State University Northridge in 2010 and MLIS from the University of North Texas in 2016. He was also a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Central Asia.

Tommy Vinh Bui (TVB): What initially drew you to your profession?

Javier Barrios (JB): My interest in my job and profession had more to do with writing than it did with library science. As an aspiring film and television writer, the lure for me really was more about being surrounded by an endless number of film and television scripts that I could peruse and learn from. It wasn't until after I got the job that I became more interested in the processing, cataloging and preservation of these precious materials.

TVB: What are some aspects that you found surprising or unexpected when you first started at the Writers Guild Library?

JB: What surprised me most about my job when I started was how rare our collection was. I mean, of course Hollywood is filled with scripts, but the mere amassing and preservation of these scripts from so many different sources into our institution for the purpose of collecting and preserving them really blew me away.

TVB: And what's your favorite part of the job?

JS: My favorite part of the job is reference. When somebody walks up to the desk to ask a question about our collection, or a question about writing, or needs a script recommendation, that's when I feel like I'm really helping somebody and doing my job.

TVB: Can you tell us about some upcoming projects or initiatives the Guild Library is currently working on?

JB: Since we are doing everything online, one of the projects that we are working on is extending the virtual library hours to include programming where we invite a showrunner to discuss the writing process on their show.

TVB: And what are some of the Library's recent achievements in terms of equity and inclusion that you're particularly proud of?

JB: Just like there is a lot of attention now to producing shows with diverse characters and leads, our focus has also shifted to acquiring more scripts from these shows.

TVB: Topsy-turvy times to be working in librarianship at the moment. What are you doing to practice self-care these days?

JB: It's very challenging for me because I have two children at home doing virtual schooling and our living and working spaces can get blurred, but we are doing a lot of home cooking, baking and trying to stay on a schedule as much as possible.

TVB: What are your go-to script recommendations for emerging screenwriters?

JB: If it is television, I immediately tell people to read the Grey's Anatomy pilot, The Good Wife pilot, and the Cheers pilot. These are all great places to start. If the writer is more interested in features, it all depends on what genre they might be interested in. One feature script I recommend often is The Terminator. That's still a great script.

TVB: What are you currently reading and what was the last great script you read?

JB: Currently, I am reading the script for Underworld, mainly because of a project I am working on. The last great script I read was The Rental.

TVB: What's inspired you lately?

JB: I recently applied to the Universal Writers Program for a chance at a fellowship, and that has inspired me to keep my output going both in my job and my own writing.

TVB: Any advice you'd like to impart to library students or early-career information professionals?

JB: Write, write, write, and read, read, read, but also, live, live, live.

TVB: Staff at the library have a lot on their plate: Helping writers with research, nonstop collection development, programming, etc. How do you find the time and stay motivated for your own writing?

JB: When I think about not succeeding as a writer, it scares me and motivates me to write. Also, I feel like when one has a lot of creative energy that needs to get out, you will always find a way to get it out, and writing is how I use that energy.

TVB: Do you have a specific writing routine and how do you stay disciplined and stick with it?

JB: I try to get my writing out of the way first thing, and that way, no matter how busy or complicated the day gets, I already wrote. If the day is slow, I sneak in another writing session.

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