Jim Van Buskirk was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Buena Park, California. A resident of San Francisco since 1972, Jim received a B.A. in Sociology in 1977 and an M.L.I.S. in 1981, both from University of California, Berkeley. As part of his course work, he helped develop and install “Out of the Closet,” an exhibit sponsored by the Pacific Center for Human Growth, which was installed during 1979-80 in public and college libraries throughout the Bay Area. An account of the project, “On Display: Presenting Gay Culture in a Library Setting,” appeared in a special issue of Catalyst: A Socialist Journal of the Social Services (No. 12, 1981). Contributing book and video reviews to Library Journal from 1981- 2000, Jim received the first Library Journal Reviewer of the Year: Nonfiction Award in June 1997.
His reviews have also appeared in James White Review, Art Documentation, Photo Metro, Lambda Book Report, Library Quarterly, Bay Area Reporter, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review and on culturevulture.net. He has made presentations at American Library Association (ALA), California Library Association (CLA), Special Libraries Association, College Art Association, Art Libraries Society/North America (ARLIS/NA) and at the library schools of University of California, Berkeley and San Jose State University .
He is a founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Interests Round Tables of both CLA and ARLIS/NA. At the 20th annual conference of ARLIS/NA in Chicago, Jim planned and participated in a panel entitled “Sexual Perversity in Chicago: Researching the Impact of Artists’ Sexuality on Their Work” presenting the paper “Between the Lines: The Often Fruitless Quest for Gay and Lesbian Materials,” published in Art Documentation (11:4, Winter 92). He served as one of the editors of the Bibliography of Gay and Lesbian Art published in 1994 by the Gay and Lesbian Caucus of the College Art Association and his regular book review column appears in the Newsletter of the Gay and Lesbian Caucus of CAA. His essay “Queer Impressions of Gustave Caillebotte” launched on Queer Arts Resource in June 1998.
He began working to develop the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library in 1991. To coincide with the April 1996 opening of the Gay and Lesbian Center, he co-authored with Susan Stryker the book Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area (Chronicle Books, 1996), which was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. He has contributed chapters of gay information to Don and Betty Martin’s The Best of San Francisco (Chronicle Books, 1994, revised 2002), Gladys Hansen’s San Francisco Almanac (Chronicle Books, 1995), and Californie, Etats-Unis (Guides Gallimard, 2001).
In 1996, Jim was invited to submit peer review evaluations for the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Division of Preservation and Access for the One Institute/International and Gay Archives’ “Multimedia Archives on CD-ROM” as well as New York Public Library’s “Proposal to Document the Response to AIDS.” That same year, Jim was one of ten library professionals nominated for a special award commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Task Force of ALA. “A Queer Career,” chronicling Jim’s path to become Director of the Gay and Lesbian Center, appeared in Liberating Minds: The Stories and Professional Lives of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Librarians and Their Advocates (McFarland, 1997) and his oral history “Out of the Orange Groves” appears on the Gay Bears: the Hidden History of the Berkeley Campus Web site.
In January 2000 Jim was invited by the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and The Humanities to participate in the workshop “Curating Community.” He was named one of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library’s Literary Laureates in April 2006. Under the auspices of the Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center , he conceived of the "Reversing Vandalism" project, which was featured in the documentary, Not in Our Town: Northern California (Working Group, 2005). He also contributed to the exhibition and catalog Out at the Library: Celebrating the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library (San Francisco Public Library, 2005) now touring the country.
His personal essays have been featured in James White Review, Common Ground, Harrington Gay Men’s Fiction Quarterly, on KPFA, and in the anthologies Dangerous Families: Queer Writing on Surviving (Harrington Park Press, 2004), I Do, I Don’t: Queers on Marriage (Suspect Thoughts, 2004), Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling (Lethe Press, 2006) and Best Date Ever (Alyson Publications, 2007). He contributed a regular column to Cabaret Scenes from 2002 to 2006 and has written occasionally for the Bay Area Reporter, and various other publications. Jim is currently working two memoirs: Body of Knowledge and My Grandmother’s Suitcase.