NASA People

Center Snapshot: Sally Schwaner
Sally Schwaner. Image above: Sally Schwaner has been working at NASA's technical library for more than 25 years. (SSAI) Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Amy Johnson

Surrounded by books is just how Sally Schwaner always envisioned herself.

"I absolutely love to read, and that's one of the reasons I became a librarian," said Schwaner, who is manager of NASA's technical library.

Ironically, the books she is surrounded with – volumes of technical journals and informational documents – aren’t exactly her idea of a casual read. In fact, in the 25 years that she's worked here, she hasn't read a single technical book.

"And I don’t plan to," she said, laughing.

Instead, the quick-witted Schwaner loves delving into biographies, cookbooks and mysteries. When asked if she has a huge collection of books at home, she gives a look that makes it clear the question was a silly one.

"I patronize and support our local libraries by checking out books instead of buying them," she said.

Schwaner, who received her master’s degree in Library and Information Science from The Catholic University of America, is from Newport News. She got her undergraduate degree from Christopher Newport College – now a university.

When it comes to working in a library, she’s done it all. From cataloguing to acquisition to circulation, there isn’t a library department that she hasn’t worked in.

"I am a jack of all library services," Schwaner joked.

Her start at NASA began more 25 years ago. She got her job here in 1983 – three years after her father – who worked at NASA as an astrophysicist - retired.

Throughout the past three decades, Schwaner has seen a lot of changes at the library, especially since the dawn of digitization and online reading.

Though change is inevitable, she does miss the number of people who used to frequent the technical library.

"We've gone from having 20 people in our main reading room at a time to just a few," she said.

Before everything became automated, Schwaner and library staff would process more than 100 library requests a day.

When she's not cataloging books or managing staff, Schwaner creates ornate hand-made cards. Like books, no two cards are exactly the same.

“I would get bored making the same thing over and over, so I like them all to be different,” she said.

Her creative streak comes naturally.

"From the time I could hold scissors, I had glue, construction paper and glitter stuck to everything in sight."

Though she’s looking forward to retirement, when the time comes, Schwaner enjoys her job and all the people she’s met along the way.

"The library here is one of the best of its kind," she said. "We have attempted to stay out in front technologically and it’s been wonderful getting the exposure to such an array of services and products."