Posted May 15, 2015
Reprinted from InterCom (pdf)
Story by Bailey Sharpe, senior public relations major
Photo by Deveney Williams, senior visual communications major
"I always loved the power of the library; I always loved that it was the great equalizer of our community," said Tamara King, the community relations coordinator at the main Richland Library in Columbia, S.C.
For King, two things have been major players in her life since day one — community and books. She finally found a way to work both into her career.
From a young age, King had a plan. Her grandparents were functionally illiterate, so for her family, broadcast was their news lifeline. Witnessing the lack of people who looked like her on the news while growing up inspired her to be a part in changing the conversation on TV. "I told myself I was going to be the black Connie Chung," said King.
I could see myself marrying my PR, my television, all of my background with advancing literacy and libraries. Tamara King
King came to the University of South Carolina to follow her dreams and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications. After graduating, King had a successful broadcast career, but one cause was always on her mind — literacy. King was involved with the library already, but a meeting for young professionals in 2012 would open the doors for a library career and change the course of her life. "I could see myself marrying my PR, my television, all of my background with advancing literacy and libraries," said King. She went back to USC for her master's in library and information science to do just that. When she finished, the Richland library saw her as a great asset.
Now, King works in media relations and with key stakeholders to promote the library's mission. "The diversity of my job is one of the aspects I enjoy the most," said King, Her unique perspective from 10 years in TV helps her pitch stories that the media will want to pick up, but King also likes to reach the community one-on-one. "I count it as a job well done when I tell someone about our many free services, and they say 'Wow, I didn't know the library did that, that's just what I was looking for!'" King said, "In that moment, I helped to create a library user and supporter."
King's literacy work does not stay inside the library's walls. With her grandparents' illiteracy in the back of her mind, she established a program for the homeless called By the Book. There she teaches adults how to have what she calls a "whole book experience." King finds this doubly satisfying: "I get to continue my love of libraries, and I also get to support moving them outside their walls. That's what I've always wanted to do."