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We Love our Librarian

Mabee librarian Sean Bird receives American Library Association award

Sean Bird posing

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
By Annie Flachsbarth

As the associate dean of university libraries and the Center for Student Success and Retention, Sean Bird, ba ’91, has made it his primary focus to do everything he can for the success of Washburn University students.

With a passion that shines through in all he does, he was recently named a winner of the 2021 I Love My Librarian Award – an honor bestowed by the American Library Association for his outstanding commitment to student success. He was one of only 10 award recipients selected from 1,865 nominations from library users across the country.

A graduate of the Washburn English department, Bird has worked for the university since 1995. He is highly respected among students, many of whom seek out his guidance. Early in his time at Washburn, he learned many incoming freshmen were coming from unique places and weren’t always prepared for college in the way their professors expected them to be.

“Many students are coming in as first-generation students who don’t have someone at home they can ask about the university experience. Mabee Library needed to be the place to help students transition into an environment of learning,” Bird said. “It’s important for Washburn students to get to the same finish line and obtain their degrees and go on to do wonderful things.”

With that goal in mind, Bird made it his mission to find ways to help students navigate the new world of the university experience to find the success they desired.

“It’s about knowing where you are and how to find the resources you need in a given moment to find a new direction” Bird said. “It all comes down to information literacy and broadening their perspectives.”

To Bird, that means students need to know more than how to find resources in a library.

“We recognize that information is a much bigger part in today’s culture than the culture that got us here,” Bird said. “The reality is we’re not checking out the same number of books we did a decade ago. So sometimes we buy books for the library, but we also buy electronic journals and work to improve the spaces in the library through meeting space, classroom space and even a math lab.”

While that dedication to providing much needed resources to Washburn students is always at the top of Bird’s agenda, recent graduate Andrew Gallegos, ba ’20, who worked in Mabee Library while a student, said it’s Bird’s ability to connect with students that stands out.

“Sean’s best trait is he can help you talk things out,” Gallegos said. “He helped me change my perspective and encouraged critical thinking. It’s difficult to leave a conversation with Sean without new insights and feeling optimistic.”

Gallegos said Bird’s personality always makes everyone feel welcome, no matter where you come from.

“Without fail, anytime a new group of people come into Mabee Library, he immediately becomes the ‘host.’ He tells them about the library, any recent upgrades and really focuses on all of the opportunities the library has to offer,” Gallegos said.

Bird acts as a mentor to many. Sara Escandon, bsw ’16, had been sitting in the library and mentioned to Bird she was looking for a job. He offered her a job at the library – one that helped shape her future.

“It was the best random job I ever had,” Escandon said. “After graduation, I worked another job for a few years, but I just didn’t love it. I remembered how much I enjoyed working at the library and decided to pursue a career in that. I’m now working for the Kansas City Public Libraries in a social work librarian position.”

Those who gain new insights when talking to Bird likely do so as a result of his constant focus on the success of Washburn students.

“Sean’s biggest question is, ‘What happens at Washburn that makes people successful?’” Gallegos said. “He is determined to help individuals find success and leave Washburn as productive members
of society.”

“I’m so grateful to be a part of the Washburn community as an alumnus, parent, librarian and adjunct faculty member,” Bird said. “The education students receive at Washburn impacts so many lives in the Topeka area, and Washburn’s reach is large. It’s a testament to the great work of the people of Washburn for more than 155 years.”

Sean and his wife, Brooke, have two sons, Christopher, ba '16, and Alex, ba '19, and two grandchildren, Garrett and Kendra. Both of their sons are Washburn graduates and Alex is even getting into the family business – he’s currently working on his master of library science.

Spring 2022 The Ichabod cover. Sculpture on the lawn north of Memorial Union

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions


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Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483