Librarians in Government

The question came in with the subject line "Reference question that only ALA can answer" but it really is a question that only all of ALA, not just the ALA Librarian, can answer: Are there librarians who have been elected officials, or who have run for office?

The quick answer is an unqualified "yes!" because for over a decade we had our "librarian in Congress" Major Owens, Democratic Congressman from New York's 11th District.  Owens received his MLS from Atlanta University in 1957 and worked at the Brooklyn Public Library.  In 1987, Owens received Honorary Membership in the American Library Association.

Some literature searching yields up a report of Cynthia Jenkins being elected to the New York State Assembly in 1982 and Ethel Manheimer elected to the Board of Education of the Berkeley (California) School District in the same year (and in the same news item reporting Major Owens' election).  I recall seeing news items of other librarians who have run for office--and perhaps you do, too!  Who are they and where were they librarians?


P.S. Thanks for your help!



I was first an appointed member of the City of Fairfax School Board and after my first term as an appointee, was elected to a second term in the city’s first school board election. I served from 1992-1996. I had to secure permission from the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the library dirctor to run for election, which was non-partisan.

Jerome Conley, librarian at Miami University (Oxford OH) was elected Mayor of Oxford Ohio several times and served until he was term limited out. I am uncertain of the exact dates, but he served as a city councilperson from the late 1990s through the early 2000s, and mayor for a number of years after that.

These two came in via direct e-mail:

Matthew R. Marsteller, librarian at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, is the elected Judge of Elections for South Strabane 2 in Washington County, Pennsylvania.

Lawrence R. (Larry) Meyer, law librarian in San Bernardino (CA) County, holds an appointed position of on the City of Fontana, California, Planning Commission; he is currently chair.

Susan Ridgeway, MLIS, served for 4 years on Green City Council, Ward 4, in Green, Ohio, from 2006-2009.

In Illinois library trustees are elected officials. I have known several librarians/library employees who work in one library and are trustees in their community libraries.

Since Illinois has more than 6,000 units of local government, I would not be surprised if librarians had served on school boards, park district boards, or as township or municipal trustees.

In Massachusetts some municipalities have library trustees as elected officials. I served as Secretary, Vice-Chair, and Chair of the Dedham Public Library’s Board of Trustees several years ago.

Surely, other elected offices have been or are being filled by people who worked in libraries at some stage of their life.

Some years ago a librarian served on the city council of a medium-sized city in California. I want to say Margaret Hoolihan and Santa Cruz but am not sure that is right.

Catherine Parker, outreach librarian at the Rhinelander District Library, was elected last April to a seat on the Town Board in Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin.

I'll add my name, Beam Furr, to the list of librarians in government. I'm a high school librarian and was a Hollywood City Commissioner from 2000-2012.