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Women Elected Officials Speak on Importance of Political Papers Collections at USF Tampa Library

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 | Posted in Your Library in Action by Eileen M. Thornton | Comments Off

As a former President of USF, I  wouldn’t consider any other location for my own papers.  Along with some of the state’s premier public servants, the record of female figures in our community provide a treasure trove of information for students and the public.

~Betty Castor

It can sometimes seem like the inner workings of public office are secretive, behind-the-scenes machinations, the true nature of which will never be known to the average citizen. But did you know that many elected officials choose to make available the archive of their term in office for public inspection and scholarly research? It is in that spirit that notable national, state, and local politicians such as Betty Castor, Jan Platt, Jim Davis, and Sam Gibbons have contributed their records to the USF Tampa Library as part of its political papers collection.

Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio; Former USF President, Florida Education Commissioner, and State Senator Betty Castor; and Former Hillsborough County Commissioner and Tampa City Councilwoman Jan Platt

Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio; Former USF President, Florida Education Commissioner, and State Senator Betty Castor; and Former Hillsborough County Commissioner and Tampa City Councilwoman Jan Plat

While the USF Tampa Library’s political papers collection is notable for its documentation on issues of importance to Floridians, it is especially strong in its representation of women public servants. Among its collections are the official archives of groundbreaking Florida Congresswoman and State Senator Helen Gordon Davis; former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio; longtime Hillsborough County Commissioner and City Council member Jan Platt; and Betty Castor, who may be best known in the USF community for her tenure as the University’s president, but who also served as Florida’s Education Commissioner, a Florida State Senator, and Hillsborough County Commissioner. Castor finds that “The USF Tampa Library is an important location for the official records and other papers of women from the Tampa Bay area who served in public office.  The Tampa Bay area elected many women, beginning in the early seventies, to local government positions as well as state offices.”

Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio reflects on the important role these collections play, and the obligations of officeholders to make their papers available: “Part of what makes our political system so interesting is its’ transparency – the ability to look through a former public official’s documents and piece together the events, people and facts that formulated decisions. Today, with so much kept electronically we are losing a large part of the historical record. I have always believed that keeping a record of one’s time in office was part of the responsibility of public office – to share information so that future researchers could better understand the context of the times. USF’s Special Collections does a remarkable job of preserving the past and making history available to researchers.”

Jan Platt was a Hillsborough County Commissioner for 20 years, as well as a member of Tampa City Council. She began her career in public service at a turning point for women elected officials. Platt says of her office’s archive, “These papers are helpful for explaining the past for those who are preparing for the future. Because they really are the public records of the history during my period of office — a turning point for Hillsborough County, beginning in the early 1970’s and going through 2004. The population of the County doubled during that period. It became an urban community, which it had not been before. These collections give a keen view into our past so that we can understand our present.”

As the political papers collection continues to grow, support from donors enables our trained staff to catalog, preserve, and make available these records for public and scholarly use. Financial support can also help fund student and class research projects. If you would like to support research and learning, make a financial contribution by contacting the USF Libraries Development office here or by calling (813) 974-4433 .



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