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College of Information and Communications

Making the magic happen: SLIS alumna Tamara King honored by Library Journal

Posted April 9, 2019
By Hannah Miller, communications intern

Each year, Library Journal spotlights about 50 librarians who are redefining what it means to be a librarian. This year, Library and Information Science alumna Tamara King was named one of LJ’s Movers & Shakers.

King earned both her degrees from the CIC — a B.A. in journalism in 2000 and an MLIS in 2014. She now works as community relations director for Richland Library in Columbia. We asked King to share more about how her experiences at SLIS prepared her for the work she’s doing in her community.

Editor’s note: Alumna Jennifer Thrift was also named to the 2019 Movers & Shakers list. Read our Q&A with her, too.

Walk me through a normal day on the job.
I tell people in my job I do the ABCs. I work every day to advance the library’s mission of access freely. I look for and create ways to build relationships with community leaders and stakeholders. Most importantly, I communicate the library’s value both inside and outside our walls. Each day, I come to work with the ABCs in mind.

How did your degree from SLIS prepare you for your career, particularly for the work that earned your Movers & Shakers recognition? Were there faculty members or staff here who influenced who you are as a librarian? Or were there specific lessons or advice that still resonate with you today?
There have been so many people who have influenced how I see librarianship and being a librarian. Two of the most influential would have to be Dr. Pat Feehan and Melanie Huggins. Dr. Feehan was my advisor and took me under her librarian wing. She showed me the fun of the librarianship and how important it was to never lose sight of why I wanted to work at a library. Dr. Feehan was like sunshine to me and encouraged me. She was the first person to really tell me that my career path in public relations and communications had prepared me to be a good librarian. She saw what I could add to the field and helped me see it, too. I will always thank her for that.

Melanie Huggins is an alumna of USC’s School of Library and Information Science and the executive director of Richland Library. She has taught me there are no limits to librarianship. Working with and for her has truly prepared me to be a Mover & Shaker. She’s innovative and committed to the community the library serves. From the minute I joined her team here at Richland Library, she encouraged and expected me to bring my whole self to the job. These two women have mentored me and played an instrumental role in me receiving this recognition.

How does your work impact your community?
Community is in my title. I never lose sight of that. It’s my job to not only communicate the value of the library to the community, it’s also my job make sure we are a part of that same community. That’s really central to my role at Richland Library and informs everything I do.

What’s your mantra as a librarian?
“Libraries make magic happen every single day.”

Every single day, we open our doors and we make magic happen for people no matter their age, race, economic background, societal status, religion or interests. When we turn a child into lifelong learner, when a teen finds a safe space to be themselves inside our walls, when we help a mother or father find the resources they need to improve their family’s quality of life — that’s magic!  We inform people, we give them places to share ideas and give them the tools they need to create and be successful. It’s the best one-stop shop your tax dollars can buy.

Do you have advice for students and early-career librarians? What are some things you wish you would have known when you first started out?
You have to do the work. You can learn the practical and intellectual parts of the library and information science field from your classes and professors, and that’s really important to librarianship. However, when you do the work and start to walk in your career path, it all starts to click. When you are able to marry what you have learned in school with real world experiences, that’s a powerful combination.  Your world opens up. You see the full picture and understand how something as simple as shelving a book can impact someone’s life in a real and tangible way.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.