It Started in the Stacks: David Ferriero


Sometimes a person’s first job is more momentous than one might recognize at the time. This could be said for David Ferriero, who as a Northeastern co-op student worked at MIT shelving books in the library. Since 2009, Ferriero has been the Archivist of the United States and, thus, the person responsible for protecting the original parchment copy of The Declaration of Independence, along with countless other critical US historical and military records.

After Northeastern and service in the Vietnam War, Ferriero received his master’s degree in library science. Then it was back to MIT, where he continued to work in the libraries, eventually becoming co-director and associate director for public services until 1996.

At that time, he left MIT for a position at Duke University and then became director of the New York Public Libraries in 2004.

In his role as archivist, Ferriero has driven a transformation at the National Archives to embrace the principles of openness, transparency, and access. Another focus is to efficiently store and make accessible large amounts of electronic data.

As the need to keep up with technology continues to be so critical, Ferriero has recounted an anecdote at MIT that serves as a reminder of where we started: “I still remember when the very first fax machine replaced Telex in the telecommunications office at MIT. When the fax was received it was immediately put into campus mail for delivery! … Coping with dizzying changes in information technology has certainly been a challenge for those of us who got our start back in the day.”

It is clear that Ferriero has embraced the challenge, including taking advantage of social media, and thereby showing the country how the National Archives is keeping up with the times. Not too shabby for someone whose first job, as Ferriero has noted, “started in the stacks.”

Photo: National Archives

Next 2000–2010: Cheryl Vossmer

Presented by Human Resources at MIT

National Archives, “Biography of David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States.”
National Archives, “An Ambitious Agenda at the National Archives.”
National Archives, “David S. Ferriero at the Closing Plenary at Wikimania 2012.”
National Archives, “State of the Archives.” Dec. 3, 2009.