Catching up with...Sarah Schmidt

Publication Date
Sara Schmidt, director of Special Collections and Archives at Schaffer Library, and Finn, her 13-year-old mutt, relax last summer on Madaket Beach on Nantucket Island

Sara Schmidt, director of Special Collections and Archives at Schaffer Library, and Finn, her 13-year-old mutt, relax last summer on Madaket Beach on Nantucket Island.

As the director of Special Collections and Archives at Schaffer Library, Sarah Schmidt stewards some of the College’s most precious possessions and goes to great lengths to make what she can available to the campus community as well as the general public. She and her staff also work to ensure the treasures are preserved for future generations.

“I firmly believe one of the great things about Union is the meshing of STEM and liberal arts and as such my overarching goal is for every student at Union to have an opportunity to come to Special Collections and handle a rare item,” said Schmidt.

“Digital surrogates are terrific and can lead to fascinating scholarship, but nothing compares to the feel of holding a piece of history in your hand.”

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Born and raised in nearby Niskayuna, Schmidt lived up and down the east coast before returning to the area when she joined Union in September 2019. Previously, she worked at the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University.

Outside of the library, Schmidt enjoys spending time walking and hiking with Finn, a 13-year-old mutt she says is a “big goofball with a loud bark.” Since adopting him in 2011, she estimates the dog has traveled with her to 23 states. In summer 2019, she took three months off between jobs, and she and Finn drove out to Colorado, Wyoming and Montana to visit family and friends.

“He’s really good in the car,” she said.

Schmidt also enjoys trying new cocktails or craft beers at different venues in the area and watching hockey.

“I’m delighted to be back at a school with D1 hockey,” she said. “Go Garnet Chargers!”

FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING: I try not to look at my phone but when I pick it up, I usually look at is Instagram and whatever silly/funny memes have been sent to me.

GO-TO BREAKFAST: Coffee; always coffee. And usually Greek yogurt with honey and fresh fruit. Having breakfast out is always a treat. Locally, either the Blue Ribbon Diner or The Nest are my favorites.

WHAT’S THE LAST GREAT BOOK YOU READ? I’m not sure it’s great, but I recently finished “Our Missing Hearts” by Celeste Ng and enjoyed it a lot. I've enjoyed Ng's books for years, and while it was a tough read a lot of the time (anytime the dog dies I'm going to cry) the patterns between Ng's dystopian world and our current events kept me invested until the end. I had to follow it with “Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries” by Heather Fawcett because I absolutely had to escape from our world for a while. If you enjoy fantasy books and want something a little different, I recommend that book, as well.

BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED: This Maya Angelou quote really resonates and is something I try to remember: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

FAVORITE PLACE TO VISIT: Madaket Beach on Nantucket Island. I’ve been going there most of my life, and it’s filled with wonderful memories. Plus, the sunsets are spectacular!

WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING RIGHT NOW: “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories” on Netflix, and I’m really enjoying it. I don't watch a lot of TV, usually just hockey (Go Carolina Hurricanes!), so when I do turn it on, I want a story I can pick up and follow without needing a lot of backstory. “Midnight Diner” is exactly that. There are recurring characters, but it's also possible to watch an episode at random and follow along.

ONE SKILL YOU WISH YOU HAD: Play an instrument. I truly have the musical equivalent of two left feet.

THREE DINNER PARTY GUESTS (living or deceased): I’m breaking the rules and asking for two dinner parties with two guests each at each party: First my paternal grandparents and then my maternal grandparents. They all passed away before I was born or during my childhood, and I would love to speak with them as an adult. From what I can tell, all four were strong individuals.

FIRST CONCERT: Thompson Twins, 1984 at Proctors Theatre

LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT YOU: One summer during college I lived on Nantucket and was the nanny for author Nathanial Philbrick’s children.