Bob Clark

Why should anyone care who works at the Roosevelt Library, you might ask? Well, it’s because we all view ourselves as just the most recent caretakers of the institution that FDR created and established.  It was FDR’s dream that the Roosevelt Library would house the papers, records, and memorabilia of his life and presidency so that Americans of later generations could gain in judgment for the future.  The Roosevelt Library itself is part of FDR’s legacy, and we all take our responsibilities very seriously.  So I think it’s important for the people who pay our salaries—you the taxpayers—to know who we are and what we do here.

I received my undergraduate and Master’s degrees in history at Texas Tech University. As a starving, penny-less student, I began working in Tech’s special collections library, the Southwest Collection.  I’ll never forget sitting at the partner desk in the basement at the Southwest Collection going through my first box of completely unorganized archival materials that had been rescued from a woman’s attic in Lubbock.  I fell in love with archival work.

But then I took an interesting turn.  I went to law school and practiced law for seven years.  While the law fascinated me, private practice did not.  So with the turn of the millennium in January 2001, I asked myself “when were you happiest?” The answer: when I was an archivist.  Soon, an archivist position opened up at the Roosevelt Library, and I moved to Hyde Park. It was one of the best decisions of my life.  I was named Supervisory Archivist in February 2005.

Today, I oversee the care of the Roosevelt Library’s 17 million pages of manuscript materials, including the papers of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt; printed materials, including FDR’s personal book collection of 22,000 volumes; and the audio-visual and photographic collections totaling some 150,000 items.  I also manage our research operations, which hosts nearly 1,500 on-site researchers a year and responds to over 3,500 research requests that come in annually from all over the world.  All this is done with one of the smallest (six people)—yet mightiest—archives staffs in the presidential libraries system.

The accomplishment of which I am most proud is that at the beginning of the renovation we managed to completely vacate the Library without ever closing our doors to research, even for one day.  The experience proved that archival theories and practices work on any scale—whether organizing that box on the desk at the Southwest Collection in 1986, or moving all of the collections and research operations out of the Roosevelt Library in 2010.

I will always be grateful for the professional and personal satisfaction that the Roosevelt Library gives me.  I work with some of the best and most conscientious public servants in government today.  And every day, I get to come to work and be inspired by two of the greatest figures of the Twentieth Century, if not all time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.