Holding considerable expertise in library science and health science, Kathleen Casteel Blazar, MSLS, was inspired to her career by her aunt, who was a nursing administrator, as well as by her own inquisitive mind and desire to help others. She embarked on her studies at The Pennsylvania State University, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in French, with distinction and honors, in 1972. She then joined Case Western Reserve University, where she received a stipend from the National Institutes of Health to train as a health science librarian. Achieving her Master of Science in library science in 1973, Ms. Blazar has also received certification from the Academy of Health Information Professionals of the Medical Library Association and advanced training in the MEDLINE database with the National Library of Medicine.
Ms. Blazar began her career as adjunct faculty in the School of Library Science and an audio-visual health science librarian at Case Western Reserve University in 1973, which she found particularly fitting due to her love of cameras, photography and media education. By 1980, she was also working as a reference librarian and helping to direct users to relevant resources for their research. Following these positions, she became a collection development librarian for health science at the university from 1980 to 1996, and specialized in monograph collection development for medicine, dental medicine and nursing.
The chair of the staff advisory council at Case Western from 1996 to 1998, Ms. Blazar became a resource librarian for health science in 1997, a role she held until 2008. Beginning in 2008, she served as the interim director for health science, the assistant director for health science and a health science librarian. In these positions she taught classes that focused on health science in both the library science program and the medical school. She retired in 2018 after 46 years at the university.
Always motivated by meeting new students, researchers and interns who came into the library with curious minds, Ms. Blazar stands out in her field for having lived and worked through the transition from print only to digital library resources. This experience allows her better understanding of why digital resources function the way they do, as they were built upon the print models. Having put concerted effort into continued learning as she progressed through her career, Ms. Blazar sometimes humorously tells people that she went to college for 50 years: four years as an undergrad, one as a grad student and 45 as an employee.
Remaining active in her retirement, Ms. Blazar presently volunteers at her local public library, where she works in the library’s book-mobile division to deliver books to Amish schools and to allow people from the Amish communities to browse the library. She has also spent time volunteering with the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio, where she helps to restore wooden carousel animals. While these activities were on pause for a while due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she has since returned to them as things have settled down.
Ms. Blazar considers her greatest achievement to be the perseverance that led her through her career, though there has been no shortage of memorable moments along the way. She notes her work with MEDLINE to be a particular highlight, along with the everyday gratification of helping overwhelmed users locate the appropriate resources and find what they need. One moment that stands out above the rest was the time an Amish man came to the front desk asking for information on a pediatric disease for which a family member was being treated. He knew it was terminal condition, but he wanted to learn everything he could, so Ms. Blazar helped him to locate medical textbook that he could read. For her excellence, she has been acknowledged in a number of publications for the research assistance she provided and, in 2006, she was presented with the Technology Improvement Award by the Greater Midwest Region of the Network of the National Library of Medicine.