Facility Profile of Sarah Daniels Health Sciences Librarian at Washburn University’s Mabee Library

Sarah Daniels decided she’d rather come and help students at Washburn University’s Mabee Library as the newest health sciences librarian instead of going to a traditional research library because she is passionate about educating others, but her path to her dream job was anything but straightforward.

Daniels, a recent graduate from Emporia State University, worked hard to finish her Master’s of Library Science these last few years. It was her second master’s degree, and one she pursued all while working a full-time job at the prison here in Topeka and raising her 6-month-old son.

So, what exactly does Daniels do in her new career as a health sciences librarian?

“Health sciences librarians are information professionals, librarians, or informaticists who have special knowledge in quality health information resources,” according to the Medical Library Association. Although this might seem a little vague,  when you look to the National Institutes of Health, a division of the United States Department of Health and Human Services,  this small part of the United States health care system provides an estimated 21 million publications per year, according to Scality, a data cloud management service.

And healthcare publications are just one aspect of the vast amounts of information Daniels has to keep up with.

Although, this is Daniels first job as a librarian, she’s adjusted well to the feel of Washburn and enjoys working with the students studying to go into healthcare.

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Daniels to get her own take on why a career at Washburn was exactly the opportunity she’d been looking for:

What is your take on being a health sciences librarian here at Washburn?

So, here’s how it looks especially with students. It’s how to access databases that are related to the health research, and then how to read articles in that field of study. And then how to develop questions to do research because can be different than if you’re doing research on something historical, let’s say, because the health field is always so is changing so rapidly all the time.

How did your interview at Washburn go, which was basically your first time on campus?

It started with coffee with the librarians. And then an hour was spent having a traditional interview where they asked me questions, and then I. had lunch with a couple of librarians on campus where I got to meet several of the people who work in different capacities. And then in the afternoon, on my interview day, I had to do a presentation

What do you think of the interview process here at Washburn?

So that process I liked because I got to meet a variety of people and really get a feel for Washburn because I feel like they designed it that way. So, you kind of get to interview them as well. Like you really get to feel out if this is what you want, and not just them asking you a lot of questions.

So, what brought you to Mabee Library here at Washburn?

I like what the library does at Washburn. It’s very different than a lot of the other libraries and academia. They’re very focused based on instruction as librarians, being faculty members and teaching classes outside of just visiting classes; it is very student centered. So, I really like that about Washburn.

When you walked in the door that first day, what was your first impression?

I walked in and I go, “I get to work in a library now.”  It made me so happy. I used to work at the prison here in Topeka. So, I went from one extreme to the other already. I went from a place that’s not very exciting and kind of has a vibe of maybe sadness or tension to a place where you can just like feel people wanting to learn and knowledge.

Can you describe your job in a nutshell?

Well, I don’t know how much of a nutshell it’ll be, but I wear several hats. So, I have a lot of very traditional librarian-type duties that I do. But a lot of what I do is instruction-based, so I teach some online classes. I have an information literacy class that I teach in person. And then I’m a part of the WU 101 classes, and then I have what we call one-shots where we visit classes and show the students how to use our databases and how to do research and stuff. I do that pretty frequently.  I’m the health sciences librarian. So, I stay pretty busy with all the different health departments on campus. I’m their liaison, so anything they need, or if they have research questions, I’m their main point of contact.

How did you feel that first time, when you realize that a student walked in to get help because they knew you, and they were comfortable enough to come back to try to get help from you?    

It made so happy because it was funny because when she walked up. I couldn’t see her and so she said my name, so I was like, oh my gosh, she even remembers my name. I’m even one of the librarians in her WU 101 class that she’s in, but what she needed help with wasn’t health research, but it was still research. So that just felt nice that even though in that class I haven’t done a lot of one-on-one stuff with them. I’ve just taught in front of them. She felt comfortable enough to come to me, because there were multiple librarians standing at the desk that day. And she came up and directly got me to help her.

What does your family think of you working here at Washburn?

Well, to go from my husband’s point of view, he loves it; he thinks it’s awesome because now he can come visit me sometimes. When I worked at the prison, obviously he could not go into the prison to see me, and now it’s fun because he can just stop in. But, he’s also the one who saw the job posting for this position because he knew the librarian from before, since he’s in the School of Nursing. When he found out that the former librarian was leaving, he told me about the position becoming available. As for my mom and my brothers, they think it’s amazing and very prestigious that I am a faculty member at university. They weren’t as familiar with Washburn, so I got to fill them in more about the university.

Daniels has fit seamlessly into her new position, and it’s evidence by what the library student workers think.

“Working with Sarah is fun; I mean working with any of the librarians is nice, but something about Sarah moves it up a notch,” said Kati Sneegas, a student who works at the main help desk. “You really can tell that she loves her job.”

Daniels feels that coming to work at a university like Washburn is calling because every faculty and staff member had a choice to go somewhere else, but they chose to come here. Although she’s just starting her journey as an educator and research specialist, she’s eager to see what the future holds.

Photo courtesy of Washburn University