Dorothy Inez Parker was a botanist, librarian, bibliographer, and author whose career with the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) spanned almost three decades, from 1945 to 1970. Parker played a crucial role in developing and establishing agricultural and medical libraries throughout the world.
Parker was born in Traders Point, Indiana on January 23, 1910. She earned her B.S. in botany from Butler University in 1932, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati in 1934 and 1936.
After completing her Ph.D., Parker took a position as the head of the Department of Biology at Brenau College, a women's college in Gainesville, Georgia. She returned briefly to the University of Cincinnati in 1938 to teach Plant Ecology, before becoming the head of the Biology Department at St. Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana in 1939. In 1944, Parker again took on a new role, this time as assistant curator of the herbarium and assistant editor of The American Midland Naturalist journal at the University of Notre Dame.
Parker joined the Rockefeller Foundation in 1945 as a temporary Bibliographic Assistant in the Mexican Agricultural Program (MAP). She was promoted to Bibliographer and Librarian of the MAP in 1947, and held this position in Mexico until 1958. A 1960 RF Newsletter profile of Parker enumerated her invaluable contributions to the MAP's agricultural library: "During the years she was in Mexico she amassed and organized the library's collection of texts and references, atlases and maps, bulletins, theses, microfilms, and periodicals; conducted seminars on the use of the library; published a manual on the subject; and maintained a reference service which dealt with a far wider range of questions than one would expect in a library serving research in the development of basic food crops for Mexico." She also edited scholarly papers and reports, translated scientific papers, and reported on Mexican agricultural conferences for RF staff. Former MAP director J. George Harrar offered a concise summary of Parker's work: "the program could not run without her," he said.
Parker's reputation as a highly skilled librarian and bibliographer ensured that her expertise and guidance were in high demand. Between 1956 and 1959, Parker traveled extensively for the Foundation, advising on the establishment or development of agricultural and medical libraries in Mexico, Honduras, Columbia, India, Thailand, and the Philippines, among others. From 1958-1959, Parker was stationed in India, working as a library advisor to the Foundation's Indian Agricultural Program.
In 1960, Parker became the Foundation's first female officer in the Agricultural Sciences when she was appointed Assistant Director for Agricultural Sciences in the RF's New York Office. In 1963 she was promoted to Associate Director for Agricultural Sciences. Parker retired in 1970, but continued working as a consultant for the Rockefeller Foundation's Agricultural Sciences program for another decade.
Parker's publications include Primer for Agricultural Libraries (1968), Library Report for the Indian Council on Agricultural Research (1969), and Guide for an Agricultural Library Survey for Developing Countries (1970).
Dorothy I. Parker passed away in White Plains, New York, on July 30, 1999. Her papers can be accessed at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC).