Donor Spotlight: Paulette Hasier '89
By Tony Scott
Paulette Hasier, '89, chief of the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress, gives back to her alma mater by supporting scholarships and giving her time for events such as the Women in STEM Speaker Series.
Since graduation, Paulette Hasier, ’89, has found tremendous success.
For the past six years she has served as chief of the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress, the first woman to lead the division since it was created in 1897.
Although she is away from DeKalb, she still has deep ties to her alma mater, proudly donating to student scholarships and investing her time, such as giving a talk for the Women in STEM Speaker Series, co-sponsored by the University Libraries and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in 2022.
Hasier received a bachelor’s degree in history from NIU, and later earned two Master of Science degrees, in library science and in history, from the University of North Texas and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas at Arlington.
Hasier started her career at the Dallas Public Library working with special collections, including historical maps, and later at Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business, directing its Business Information Center. She then entered federal government service working as a contractor before landing with the U.S. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), where she initially served as a lead geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) analyst and then chief of the GEOINT Research Center and map libraries. She was responsible for managing an estimated one million maps both at NGA and at the Pentagon Map Library, with about 90% of the maps digitized to ensure access.
Hasier said she gives back to her alma mater because she sees NIU as the foundation on which her later education and career were built.
“You probably don’t think about that when you’re an undergraduate, but you appreciate that there was a foundation you could build upon,” she said. “You do become more appreciative as you go on. You think, I really couldn’t have taken the GRE, or completed my dual master’s degree, or eventually received my Ph.D. if I didn’t start somewhere. When I think about NIU, I think about it as the cornerstone, the bedrock.”
The youngest of 10 children, Hasier grew up on Chicago’s South Side. Her mother was a homemaker, and her father was a truck driver. Tragically, her father was killed in an accident when Hasier was 10 years old with four of the children still at home, and her mom was suddenly a single parent.
Hasier said her mom decided to go back to school, to community college, after her father’s death. Reading and learning were encouraged in their household, and Hasier remembers frequenting the Mt. Greenwood Branch of the Chicago Public Library as a youth.
“My mother loved to read,” she said. “And growing up in Chicago, the public library was two blocks away from the house. It was convenient. Having access to a knowledge base is just awesome. Having so many children in a family, my mother would send us off to the library. We’d pick up books for pleasure, but we would also look through the encyclopedias, and mom would go there and pick up books for herself.”
Hasier’s mother, who has since died, was always encouraging conversations in their home on politics, current events or other stimulating topics.
“There was never a lack of curiosity or questioning,” Hasier said. “I think that was very helpful to me in my academic career, especially as I moved toward earning my Ph.D.”
Her older sister Kathleen Hasier, ’86, M.S.Ed. '94, also graduated from NIU, and Hasier would visit her frequently at the DeKalb campus. When it was time to choose a college, Hasier liked that NIU was close so she could go home on the weekends, and her sister was living in DeKalb when she began her undergraduate studies.
“NIU also had a really strong history department,” Hasier said.
Hasier was inspired by the faculty at NIU, especially Dr. Marvin Rosen, her history professor who died in 2001 and for whom the Marvin Rosen Endowed Scholarship Fund is named. Hasier has supported that fund, among others, as a generous donor to NIU.
“Dr. Rosen didn’t treat us like children, and he didn’t care if you agreed with him or not, but he made you think,” she said.
Hasier now oversees a division of the Library of Congress that holds 5.6 million cartographic items in its collection. It is the largest map collection in the world available to the public.
“The people really make the collections sing,” she said. “People started to collect materials for this division in 1876, but they collected materials based on their expertise and their opinions. So there is a lot of people’s influence in the collection, and our people continue in this tradition to make decisions on what we digitize or items that we catalog.”
She loves the enthusiasm of her staff, who inspire visitors to the library.
“The fun part of it is when we get to have my staff show off their passion, their love of the collections and their expertise,” she said.
During the COVID pandemic, the library adjusted to providing many exhibits and features online, including a feature called Story Maps, immersive web applications that tell the incredible stories of the library’s collections through narrative, multimedia, and interactive maps.
“It gives people a peek into the collections, but in a way that makes them hungry for more,” she said.
As she reflected on her lengthy career and her passion for learning and educating others, Hasier said she truly enjoyed coming back to campus last year during the Women in STEM Speaker Series. It’s part of her long history of giving back to NIU.
“It felt like coming back to my roots,” she said.