Smithsonian Libraries and Archives recently welcomed Tamar Evangelestia-Dougherty as our inaugural director. Join us as we get to know the new leader of our organization!
2.) Tell me about your background in your own words. What attracted you to the field of libraries and archives as a career?
The path to my career was a challenging process. My mother wanted me to be a successful Black woman which in her eyes was to have a respectful career in which I made lots of money. She wanted me to be a doctor, and then when it turned out I was no good at calculus she said, “Well, I guess you need to be a lawyer.” She never really embraced or wholly understood my library career.
However, when I was in high school and college I worked in libraries for extra money and started getting closer and closer to them. I always felt there were smart people in libraries, people who liked to read and were interested in different esoteric things like me – and then I learned about special collections. I realized from my Chicago Historical Society experience that there were curators in libraries. I eased into the profession by working odd and temporary LIS jobs, and then the jobs kept becoming more and more permanent with greater responsibilities. Working as a special collections assistant in Princeton University Library’s Rare Book and Manuscript reading room is what sealed the deal for me for library school. For a time, I did not reveal to my family what I was getting a master’s degree in.
4.) Why do you believe that libraries and archives are important to the Smithsonian?
We are the keepers of history for the entire organization. We have an important mission to provide resources for the research that curators, scholars, and scientists need. Every museum object has a story to tell, but that story may be documented within our archives or put into better context by our library research material. I also believe that we are called upon for a bigger, global mission to provide documentation to society. We have a lot in our collections that speaks to what it is to be America and American. I see us as playing a much bigger role more similar or parallel to the Library of Congress – on that top level. We are America’s library.
Direct to Complete Interview (about 2700 words)