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Special Collections Manager Tamara Belts to Retire After 42 Years at Western

by Naomi Schapiro, Office of Communications intern
  • A portrait of Tamara Belts in the stacks at Special Collections
    Tamara Belts in the stacks at Special Collections

Tamara Belts, Special Collections manager at Western Libraries, will retire on April 1, after working at Western Washington University for over 42 years.

Belts got her start at Western as a transfer student in 1974, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1976.

She has worked for Western Libraries since October 1977 in many roles, including positions in Circulation, Serials, Cataloging, Acquisitions, Government Information, and her current position in Special Collections.

Her job title isn’t the only thing that Belts has seen change in the last 42 years. She said that when she first started working for Western Libraries, the main tool she used at work was a manual typewriter. Now, she can do almost everything on a smartphone. 

Another big change Belts saw through her many years at Western was the implementation of the Library Information System in 1995. 

“Having been the last university in the state to go online, I think there was an incredible shared sense of accomplishment and pride when it was done,” Belts said. “Everyone played a part, and everyone directly benefited, whether you worked in Technical Services, Public Services, or Parks Hall, it was a shared platform that served the whole university community.”

Another transformative experience that stands out to her is the creation of a purpose-designed home for Special Collections in 2010. It was another initiative that required support across the whole university, Belts said.

“It has completely transformed the work of Special Collections and our ability to engage in the teaching and learning that is our true purpose,” she said.

Marian Alexander, who was Belts’ supervisor before she retired as head of Special Collections in 2010, said that Belts is a special person who brings enthusiasm, energy, and determination to her work.

“As a key member of the Special Collections team, with her characteristic dedication and personal commitment, she helped Special Collections become the valuable resource for WWU’s students, faculty, and researchers worldwide that it is today,” Alexander said.

Clarissa Mansfield, communications manager for the Libraries, has worked with Belts since 2006. She said that working with Belts has been a true joy.

“She is beloved, not just within the library, but throughout the university,” Mansfield said. “Tamara is one of those people that whenever I think about her, I find myself smiling without even realizing I am doing it.”

Belts is preparing a short visual presentation covering her years at Western as a way of saying thank you, planned tentatively for March 20, at 3 p.m. in the Map Collection in the library. There is also the opportunity to donate to the Marian Alexander Professional Development Award in Belts’ honor, which is intended to support learning opportunities for Libraries classified staff.

For more information, contact Andrea Peterson, associate dean of Libraries, at

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Friday, January 31, 2020 - 9:55am