For Paulette Marie Hasier ('96 M.S.), Willis Library holds special significance. Hasier was the first woman appointed as chief of the Geography and Map Division at the Library of Congress -- the largest library in the world with over 160 million items, including original maps from Lewis and Clark and George Washington -- in January, but her first foray into the library profession was a job at Willis as a graduate student in 1995.
After she earned her bachelor's degree in history from Northern Illinois University, a case of wanderlust inspired the Chicago native to head south to pursue her master's in history. Hasier and her mother took a road trip to Texas to tour the handful of universities she had applied to.
She was impressed with the feel of UNT's campus and the friendliness of the students who took the time to show her around during finals week. Her decision also was influenced by the catalog she received when she met with a graduate advisor, where she learned about UNT's dual master's program allowing students to earn degrees in both applied history and library science.
The career flexibility afforded by two graduate degrees sold her on the program. Once she enrolled, the sense of community was especially impactful, as was the experience she gained from a practicum in the UNT archives.
"I got some real hands-on training at UNT, and I think it's something people don't always appreciate," says Hasier. "You're not just going for the education, but you also want a little bit of that real-world experience. Those things are invaluable because anybody can say, 'I got 60 or 80 credit hours,' but when you can say, 'I did training and I was able to process collections,' all of a sudden you've got some valuable experience."
Hasier says that hands-on experience included learning how to inventory items into a collection, process materials based on archival schemes and serve those materials to the public. She completed the rigorous dual program in just 18 months.
"Oh, don't ask me if I had a life," Hasier says with a laugh. "I read the alumni magazine sometimes and people talk fondly about going to the football games and hanging out. I remember walking from the library to my dorm."
But her personal life wasn't completely on hold while she was at UNT. Willis Library played a part in shaping Hasier's future again when she met her future husband and fellow history major, Christopher Koontz ('95 M.A., ʼ03 Ph.D.), while working at the library.
The couple continued to date after Hasier graduated and began her career at Dallas Public Library. She then took a job as a librarian at Southern Methodist University's Business Information Center and enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Texas at Arlington. Koontz proposed shortly before a job opportunity with the Army's Center for Military History took him to Washington, D.C., where Hasier joined him after completing her doctoral degree in transatlantic history.
Once in D.C., Hasier worked for library vendor CAPCON, Advanced Resources Technologies Inc. and the U.S. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency before joining the Library of Congress, which she believes serves a vital purpose to the nation.
"The Library of Congress holds the corpus of the American memory, building on Thomas Jefferson's idea that there is no topic that would not be of interest to policy makers in this nation," says Hasier. "The cartographic materials in the Geography and Map Division not only record where we have been as a nation, but also where we continue to grow and thrive as a society."
And although she says she's happy to have broken the ground of becoming the first female chief of her division, she doesn't want it to distract from the work she's so passionate about.
"My favorite part of this job is the outreach. I love talking about our collection and supporting lifelong learners," says Hasier. "I just want to make sure that I do the library proud. I'm not looking at it as being the first in anything. I'm kind of looking at it as, I'm representing what can be."