Sarah Sheehan: The Woman Behind the Stacks

By Lauren Raziano, Copy Editor/Web Editor

The Tom and Mary Alice O’Malley Library is filled with stacks of books and wonderful people. One of the staff members of the O’Mally Library is the Director of Reference and Instruction, Sarah Sheehan MSLS, M.ED, AHIP.

Sheehan has been with Manhattan College for six years, but has spent over 30 years being a librarian. She has always been interested in pursuing a library degree. 

“My mother was a part of a program called Friends of the Library for Yarmouth Port on Cape Cod in Massachusetts and she just thought that was the best thing ever.” Sheehan said. “And so when I was applying to colleges, I looked at library science programs.” 

Since library science is not offered as an undergraduate degree, Sheehan received a BA in English and later pursued a master’s in library information science from the Catholic University of America (CUA). 

Sheehan explained how a master’s in this field can be career-changing for someone who works in a library.

“[Some people] just think anybody standing at a desk in a library is a librarian [but] in an academic environment, most librarians need at least a second master’s in their subject specialty,” Sheehan said. “So that’s sort of how I ended up on the library path at CUA.”

Sheehan received an additional masters in Education and Instructional Design from George Mason University. After that, she gained an additional credential as a senior member of the Academy of Health Information Professionals. Previously, she has worked at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Frostburg State University, University of Maryland and George Mason University in Fairfax. 

“There are many, many roles a librarian can play. My role is very much what I call front of the house … for my particular job, you really have to like people, you don’t go into a service profession not wanting to help. And so that’s where I really think it’s an important skill,” she said.

Her advice to students when it comes to utilizing the library for research is simple. 

“Come talk to me.” Sheehan said. 

According to Sheehan, students don’t often recognize the resources the library has available for them. 

“I think Manhattan College, for the size of the institution, has an amazing online collection,” she said. “And I think one of the things students aren’t aware of, or, and especially in the sciences, like engineering, is that they have some of the most incredible e-book collections that they can just access on their phone, on their laptops, and they don’t even have to worry about coming into the building.” 

Access to information on the internet may be easy to find, but Sheehan wants students to know that information isn’t always free.

“One of the things students need to understand is that access costs money and we are so used to ‘great god’ Google, and how we just type something in and it pops up and ‘it’s free.’ Information isn’t free,” Sheehan said. 

The library is able to offer services where they can find books, articles or journals for free.

“There is a lot of information that students can seamlessly access through the library without having to pay for a book from Amazon or a journal article or that they find through Google Scholar,” Sheehan said. “This is something that the library actually can get for them. We’re shifting the cost away from you on to us and I think that’s one of the things that has changed in how we access information.” 

Sheehan shared her favorite memory at Manhattan College, which of course, occurred in the library. 

“I got to dismantle book stacks, which sounds very anti-librarian,” Sheehan said. “When I first came here, the back part of the fifth floor was empty stacks. Back in the day the library had a huge reference collection. Basically, it was the print version of Wikipedia.” 

After the addition to the O’Malley Library, Sheehan was able to reorganize the stacks of reference books and restructure the study spaces around the library. 

“I got a drill and ended up using a bar to take the shelving down and as we are taking the shelving out and bringing tables up into that back space on the fifth floor, students are nearly claiming the tables as we’re putting the tables out.” 

Sheehan is proud to see the transition the library has undergone and how it can be improved in the future to help students. 

“I’m really, really proud of looking at what this building can be like to support the students,” Sheehan said. “I’m also really proud of working on getting the subject librarians, making sure every department knows they have a librarian, that the faculty can then tell their students ‘Go see this person, this is the person that can help you.’ So that’s something I’m really proud of being able to move towards that direction.”

One of her favorite spots is, unsurprisingly, a space just steps away from the library. 

“The second floor computer lab is one of the most gorgeous spaces outside of the library.” Sheehan said. “I think the quad is just such a quintessential college campus environment. And I enjoy sitting on a bench, sitting on the stairs, just people watching. I think the quad is a really important piece of the creative community for Manhattan College.” 

One thing Sheehan wants people to know about her is that she travels from Manhattan College to Washington D.C. during the semester to see her family.

“Well, it’s the one thing that’s very unique about me, and I think it’s true for a lot of faculty here at Manhattan College.” Sheehan said. “My family is actually in Washington, D.C., and I go back and forth on the weekends. So I’m generally here Monday through Thursday, and then I’ll go home Thursday night, and I’m home for the weekend and then come back out.” 

Sheehan’s favorite book genre is fiction, popular romance, but when it comes to her profession, her most useful book is “Little Brown Handbook,” which she would like freshman in the introductory English classes to know can be useful.

Finally, Sheehan wants students to know that librarians are here at Manhattan College to make them successful. 

“Use us for our skills and knowledge and to help you be successful,” Sheehan said.”You know, as I say, in class, it’s my job to make you successful.”