Q&A with Yuri Shimoda (2018), interviewed by Babak Zarin (2018)

Headshot of Yuri Shimoda wearing a black top with white polka dots, hair down, looking straight at camera.Yuri Shimoda obtained an MLIS at UCLA, with a focus in media archival studies, in June 2019. While at UCLA Shimoda helped to establish the first student chapter of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC), co-founded Basement Tapes Day, and served as a Graduate Student Assistant at the UCLA Music Library and a UCLA Community Archives Lab/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Intern at Visual Communications, a media arts center for Asian-American and Pacific Islander filmmakers. Shimoda has also served a summer as a Library of Congress Junior Fellow in the Recorded Sound Section at the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center.

Currently, Shimoda is the CLIR Recordings at Risk Intern at the Autry Museum of the American West, a Clerk for Los Angeles Public Library, and an Asset Specialist Intern at Walt Disney Imagineering’s Information Research Center. Her research interests include the history and preservation of sound recordings and community archiving.

Shimoda is interviewed here by her fellow 2018 cohort member, Babak Zarin, who obtained an MSLIS from The Catholic University of America in December 2018. Zarin also holds a J.D. from Elon University School of Law and previously worked as a Library Assistant at CUA's Mullen Libraries and a Circulations Student Assistant at Elon University School of Law Library. Currently, Zarin works as an Access Services Librarian at Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Virginia.

BZ: What drew you towards librarianship and doing sound preservation work?

YS: Music was constantly being played and created in my home as a child, and I have always been fascinated with sound recordings and their playback equipment. I was able to blend my love for music, research, and writing into a career as a music journalist before the industry started migrating towards digital versus print publishing. When I discovered that I could channel my journalism background, and my passion for music and sound recordings, into audio archiving and music librarianship, it seemed like a natural next step.

BZ: Right now you’re clerking and interning at a museum, a library, and an information center, all three of which have very unique styles of librarianship, and I know you’re currently working on a project to preserve Native American sound recordings. That’s all incredible! Tell me: what are you finding to be the most exciting aspects of all your work these days?

YS: I grew up in Orange County, California, and many of the significant moments in my life were commemorated with a trip to Disneyland, so getting to process unique materials related to the design of Disney’s global theme parks in the Imagineering archive has been such a great experience. I’m also currently wrapping up a grant-funded project, digitizing hundreds of sound and audiovisual recordings of Native American songs, oral histories, theatrical plays, and lectures at the Autry Museum of the American West. The most exciting aspect of this project is that we are hoping to collaborate with the affiliated tribes in order to accurately describe the recordings in the museum’s catalog records and determine access policies for the recordings.

As much as I love processing archival collections, I also enjoy interacting with all of the different patrons who make up the fabric of this city when I’m on duty at Los Angeles Public Library. I have this dream of still working a reference shift once a week when I’m retired and 90 years old.

BZ: Being a librarian can be an intense experience! How do you practice self-care to stay at your finest?

YS: I’m naturally a very empathetic person, so it is sometimes difficult for me to not be affected by events that transpire in the library or by a story on a sound recording that I’ve had to review for cataloging purposes. That’s why it’s extremely important and necessary for me to make sure to step away from my desk to go outside and eat lunch, take a break, or just breathe throughout the work day. In my free time, I listen to music or go hiking because they can be such meditative experiences. I also love to dance. It’s such stress relief!

BZ: As a member of the Spectrum 2018-2019 cohort, you’re entering the profession at an interesting time, when discussions of equity and inclusion are becoming more vital and more common. How has being a part of the Spectrum community impacted you and your form of librarianship during these exciting times?

YS: Taking part in the Spectrum Institute in June was such a valuable experience, from the words of wisdom shared by all of the panelists to the relationships that were formed or strengthened within the cohort. Having a support system of such amazing librarians and archivists is priceless as we all try and navigate the current climate where discussions of equity and inclusion are becoming more vital and common, but where change is also slow going and not always wanted or welcomed by all. It is not easy being a woman, let alone a woman of color, in a specialization that is dominated by white males, but I am lucky to have our cohort and some pretty incredible mentors.

BZ: Of course, I have to ask: what’s on your reading list these days? Any good recommendations?

YS: I have been working on a paper that I’ll be presenting in a few weeks about the Autry project, so I’ve been reading a lot of articles on repatriation, intellectual property law, and copyright. The Oxford Handbook of Musical Repatriation has some good ones. It’s been hard for me to find time to read something fun, but I am going to be traveling next week and am looking forward to finally getting to read Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore. For music, I’ve been listening to the new Tool album, Fear Inoculum. The track “7empest” is pretty epic.

BZ: Last, but certainly not least, is there anything outside of these questions that you’d like to share with our readers?

YS: I am so grateful to ALA and the Calloway family, who endowed my award. Because of my Spectrum scholarship that I was able to focus on the Autry project and my UCLA Community Archives Lab/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation internship in the archives of Visual Communications (VC), a media arts center for Asian American and Pacific Islander filmmakers, during the second year of my MLIS program. Working at VC was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had so far, being surrounded by a staff comprised wholly of Asian Americans and processing materials related to Asian-American life in Los Angeles. To see myself and my own experiences of growing up in Southern California reflected in the images I was preserving was incredibly powerful, and something I’ll never forget.