Beloved UNE Librarian Retires

Barbara Swartzlander, Research and Teaching Librarian, retires after 35 years of emphatic service.

(Photo Pulled from Barbara J. Swartzlander | University of New England in Maine)

(Photo Pulled from Barbara J. Swartzlander | University of New England in Maine)

Barbara Swartzlander began her prosperous career at The University of New England (UNE) in 1987. Like many good things in life, she secured the cherished job entirely fortuitously. Now, 35 years later, she has decided to progress into the next chapter of life, retirement. As of April 28th, 2023, Swartzlander will no longer be a UNE employee.

Originally from Indiana, the devoted librarian discovered her love of academia young. She received a Bachelor of Science in Education from Ball State University in 1972, a Master of Science in Education from Indiana University in 1975, and a Master of Library Science from Indiana University in 1979. “I liked going to school; I thought I’d be a student forever. So, I went from being a student to working in a school because I learn something every day,” Swartzlander said.

Following her husband’s career, she moved from Indiana to Maine in 1987. However, unsure if she wanted to stay in the state, Swartzlander tentatively took a part-time job at The University of Southern Maine (USM).

As if by fate, her husband accepted the position of Director at the Portland Public Library, an institution prominently intertwined with local colleges and universities. To celebrate the new director, local librarians hosted a “Welcome to Maine” dinner for the couple. This juncture would unknowingly change Swartzlander’s personal and professional life as well as provide UNE with an invaluable asset.

“Funny enough, we got lost on the way and were fashionably late,” Swartzlander laughs. Despite the setback, Andrew Golub, Dean of Library Services at UNE, was at the event and offered her a temporary position that very evening. “I told him I was working at USM part-time and loved it; I didn’t want to jump from one temporary to another. He said, ‘Let me see what I can do,’ the rest is history; he hired me for a full-time job.” 

Gif by Emily Hedegard
Gif by Emily Hedegard

Over her time at UNE, Swartzlander has held a variety of titles, including Director of Reference Services and Research and Teaching Librarian. She was also the Library Services Liaison and Subject Specialist for ten schools and departments (see the complete list below).

She began working at UNE while it was still a single-campus location, providing her the unique opportunity to foster a co-evolution; the school helped cultivate Swartzlander’s professional life, and she, in turn, catalyzed many of the University’s progressions. 

Introducing online communications was one of the most remarkable expansions she helped facilitate. When Golub was Dean of Library Services and Director of IT, he and I advocated for the implementation of email and voicemail at UNE. The administration did end up providing these services to the entire community,” she smiles. 

 In fact, when Swartzlander started at UNE, there was “one little stand-alone computer in the library, no network, it was just a computer with a CD-ROM drive (compact disc read-only memory drive). The State Library Catalog would come, put the disc in, and that was the catalog,” Swartzlander said. “It’s crazy to think how now, UNE users have access to a plethora of scholarly e-journals and databases. Finding information has become a treasure hunt, and I think it’s fun to help other people find things.”

In addition to promoting the implementation of various resources, she held an active role within the UNE community. This includes participation in countless events and projects; some notable would be Giving Day, the Fall Fun Run, hiring the Maine Women Writers Collection (MWWC) curator, and promoting climate control and fire suppression in the MWWC.

Furthermore, Swartzlander co-wrote and participated as a Principle Investigator (PI) for the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Technology Grant with COM and was Library Representative on the University Faculty Assembly. She also served on the UFA Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) and was the UFA AAC Library Subcommittee Chair. 

Yet, despite the endless list of professional accomplishments earned during her time at UNE, her most outstanding achievement is the nurturing and secure relationship she built with students. 

“In the past year or so, I was at the career fair, and a man approached the desk and said, ‘Do you remember me?’  Well, it turns out he had graduated in 1994, and I had taught him how to use the Internet. He went to work at the Portland water district after he graduated. Nobody else there knew how to use the internet. He told me that he taught them what he had learned from me, and now they all use it,” Swartzlander beams.

Her dedication to students was self-evident, and helping enrich people was her utmost priority. She strived to improve Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) and served on the University Assessment Committee (UAC) for many years.

“You can either be positive or negative; you can’t be both. Why not be positive? You’re only on this planet for a short time; you might as well be resilient and do something for others. I help others learn something every day, and it’s what I like to do; students give me hope for the future.”

With UNE representing so many personal and professional milestones, Swartzlander’s decision to retire may seem puzzling; however, she has big dreams. With her newly acquired free time, she plans to volunteer somewhere, run agility with her dogs, read, garden, listen to birds, and “sip a cocktail every day at 5:00 pm – or earlier.” 

“I’ve been here for 35 years. My husband’s retired. I think it’s just time to race on down the road before they kick me out,” she jokes. “It’s been a tough decision because I love working here, but there are lots of things I like to do. It feels like it’s time to move aside, let a new librarian come in, and work with students.”

Swartzlander’s retirement will be a difficult goodbye, but that only shows how deeply adored she was by her community. 

Her work at UNE was never a hardship; it was a blessing. “I am thankful to the University for the opportunity to work here for many years and for my great experience; I’m so grateful for this. Librarians don’t laugh all the way to the bank, but I became rich in terms of students, faculty, and staff.”

So, on behalf of The Bolt, we wish Barbara a fun and fruitful retirement full of dogs, books, and cocktails!