Meet the PLA Board

Meet Tamara M. King, Director-at-Large

Tamara M. King

I often say my career has had many lives. I have been an overnight country music DJ; a local television news reporter; written talking points for a governor and future presidential candidate; I have planned an event where more than 3,000 families and students attended; developed a literacy initiative for families in crisis; and been an award-winning public relations and communications professional. Even with all these stops along my library journey, I didn’t feel I found my stride until I started my current position at Richland Library in Columbia, SC. For the past nine years, I am able to impactfully blend my passion, purpose and experience in my daily work.

In my role as the chief equity and engagement officer, I am able to support the library’s equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives, programs and partnerships, further ensuring our community engagement efforts reach underserved and marginalized populations.

I have also been able to develop and expand the library’s award-winning Let’s Talk Race Team. Since 2016, our team has developed a free facilitation curriculum, held discussions on race, inclusion and social justice for more than 4,000 participants, hosted nearly 200 community discussions and sparked a culture shift in our library system. I am excited about our next chapter.

I am married to my high school sweetheart, Ronald, and we are coming up on our twentieth wedding anniversary. We have a curious and kind eight-year-old daughter named Madison.

Why I wanted to serve on the PLA Board

I believe that public libraries are one of societies’ great equalizers. A place of inclusion where people—from all walks of life—are able to see themselves reflected on library shelves and the services they provide each day. I wanted to be on the PLA Board to be a part of the national conversation surrounding public libraries and their role in protecting democracy and intellectual freedom. I also wanted to use my voice to support libraries all over the country in deepening their equity, inclusion, and diversity work. EDI is a journey, and I want to use my experience in communication and facilitation to help PLA further develop an EDI-centered lens to use to review their policies and procedures, and look for ways to be a more equitable and just system.

My vision for the future of public libraries

I want sixty years from now, public libraries to be proud of how we withstood the challenges of today. That in spite of the threats, the condemnation, the hate, we stood our ground for intellectual freedom and democracy. I want us to be secure in the fact, that we didn’t bend on our core belief that “Free people, read freely.” That we created inclusive spaces where our customers felt seen, valued, and affirmed. I want public libraries to be on the right side of history and fully become the “third place” for our anyone who walks through our doors or uses our services.

My favorite book

Every good book I am currently reading is my favorite until the next one. Some of the good reads that have changed my perspective are In the Company of My Sisters by Julia A. Boyd, Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and the Children of Blood and Bone series by Tomi Adeyemi. Just to name a few! There are about fifty more.

Somewhere I love to frequent in my community

My community has a farmers market within walking distance of my home, and I love to go weekly to see my neighbors, buy fresh produce, and try a host of yummy treats. I love taking a family walk at our local national and state parks. I also like our zoo here in Columbia. I think I like going there more than my daughter! And of course, I love visiting our library locations. They are my happy place. I love seeing our different displays and book selections at each location. Every community has its own vibe and you can tell a lot about the surrounding community by just going to its library.

Photo: Tamara M. King ready to take her seat at the table—ALA Chicago Let Freedom Read 2023 Big Chair station.