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Your City at Work

Library Profiles

Get To Know…Sean Garvey, Local History Librarian
Sean Garvey, Local History LibrarianSean 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.

Lisa Elliott-Young Adult Librarian

Lisa Elliott - Library Staff

Get To Know… Lisa Elliott—Young Adult Librarian
Lisa has headed the Library’s Young Adult program for 10 years.  You may find her assisting Muggles or making magic with the Teen Library Council, who are the inspiration for many of the teen programs.

Why is it important for the library to offer programs for teens?
For library programs, we consider teens to be young people in grades 6-12. This is quite a wide age range that includes 10 to18-year-olds, so of course they will have different needs depending on where they fall in that spectrum.  We serve them in diverse ways.

However, the most valuable aspect of library programs for folks this age is the opportunity to experience some autonomy in a safe space. They actually have a biological, physical need for a place where they can be themselves, pursue their interests without judgment and interact with their peers. Their brains need this kind of exploration in order to become independent adults. (I swear I’m not making this up. It’s science.) So we plan programs that offer more guidance for younger teens and are more self-directed for older teens. We cater to their interests, ask for their ideas and try as much as possible to convey that this is their library, and they should feel empowered within it as they become informed citizens of the world.

Q: How do you attract teens to the Library?  What have been some of the most popular teen programs?
The strongest magnet for teens is other teens. If their friends are doing something, they want to do it, too. So while I write brochures, make outreach visits to school and post on social media, I rely on teen word-of-mouth to bring in the crowds. Anything from the wizarding world of Harry Potter or the long ago and far away world of Star Wars is a guaranteed hit. College prep workshops are also popular, as are gaming tournaments. And Teen Library Council has been shaping the teen program at this library for more than a decade.

Q: Please share a story about one memorable experience you’ve had while working with teens?  Why was it memorable?
Last spring, Teen Library Council asked for an opportunity to read to little kids. We worked together to plan a Día de los Niños event, inviting kids to listen to some recently published picture books with diverse characters and earn stamps in a “passport” by visiting several activity stations. The teens worked hard to get the program ready, but due to some weird alchemy that we couldn’t explain, only one kid showed up. (Our weekend programs usually draw in dozens of kiddos and their families.).

What they might have seen as a disaster, they turned into an opportunity, and five teens gave this one child their complete focus and attention. They read her books, had deep conversations with her about her life and her family, talked with her about diversity, and during the sweetest few minutes of my career, spontaneously sang her lullabies in the first languages of their parents and grandparents, including Korean and French.  That child left with five new heroes, and so did I.

Q: 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?
I have had countless interactions with teens who are trying to answer questions about themselves, courageously tackling issues fundamental to their identities. My role is to remain neutral and without judgment while being knowledgeable enough to offer resources and referrals.

Q: What is the biggest challenge in your job?  Why is it a challenge?
The biggest challenge of my job also makes it incredibly rewarding. I am in a constant race to keep up with teens. Everything from their interests to the tools they use for communications are constantly changing, and those changes inform the kinds of programs and library materials that will appeal to them. I try to keep close to the cutting edge while accepting that I’ll never be as on-trend as the average teenager. This pace and variation suits me because there’s little I find more irritating than repetition. Old banana peels in the office garbage are more annoying, but that’s really it.

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