Sean Garvey has been the library’s local history librarian since 2007, assisting many patrons with local history questions and conducting research for them. He is also a reference librarian who helps customers get the information they need, selects new materials for the library’s collection and plans library events and programs. The Local History Room is open Mondays 2-4 p.m., Wednesdays 10 a.m.–noon, Saturdays 1-3 p.m. and by appointment.
1. Why is it important for the library to promote local history? How do people most often use the Local History Room?
We are fortunate to have a dedicated space in the Tigard Public Library for a local history collection. Part of our mission is to foster lifelong learning and to provide an array of programs and services that encourage the development of well-rounded citizens. I can’t think of a more useful discipline than an appreciation for local history, no matter where you live.
The most frequent questions we get are people seeking obituaries or trying to track down people they went to school with in Tigard through the Tigard High yearbooks. We have created simple ways for the public to find a local obituary online for a late friend or family member or to locate old newspaper articles about people or events in Tigard.
2. Since you became the local history librarian, what improvements have you made to the Local History Room? What kind of resources would be necessary to better serve the public?
A few years ago the library began sharing some of our historic photograph and oral history collections with the public online. The City of Tigard’s Geographic Information System (GIS) team also helped us create an online, photographic “story map” of the people, places and events that have historically defined Tigard. That allows people to do research online.
One of the things we are looking into is digitizing our historic copies of the Tigard Times and Tigard Sentinel and that costs money. We also need to find out if we can get permission from the owner of The Tigard Times to digitize them. Many other libraries in the state have digitized their historic newspapers.
3. What do you say to people who say “why do we need to devote time and space to local history? Why should we care about something that happened 100 years ago?”
I recently came across a 2007 essay written by historian Arthur Schlesinger where he compared our nation’s history to an individual’s memory: He wrote that “as persons deprived of memory become disoriented and lost, not knowing where they have been and where they are going, so a nation denied a conception of the past will be disabled in dealing with its present and its future.” I think this concept of history and memory can be applied anywhere—to the City of Tigard, Washington County or the State of Oregon.
4. What is the most interesting local history question you’ve gotten?
One of the more interesting local history questions we’ve received inquired about a huge white mansion located on Bull Mountain. After some digging in our files, I came across some old newspaper articles about “Homewood,” a 14,000 square-foot mansion (the same size as the Tigard Library) designed in the 1920s by famed Northwest architect A.E. Doyle, whose many works are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Homewood was built for Leroy Fields, president of the Fields Motor Car Company in Portland. For over 50 years the mansion’s connection to Doyle was lost because the architect never left a trail in his personal papers or records. It was only when current owners discovered original blueprints in the house that they were able to connect the design to Doyle.
5. If you could tell people about one aspect of your job that they probably don’t know that you do, what would it be? Why is it important?
For the past two summers I have led small groups on interpretive walking tours of Tigard’s Main Street. On the tours I explain Main Street’s origins and development, as well as the people, businesses and events that occurred there over the past century. Main Street is the historic heart of Tigard, and its history explains much about why Tigard has long been a popular, growing location for a place to call home.