About Sara Katsh from the AORN newsletter

A Library Legacy to be proud of…

  Think of it like a pebble thrown into a pond—the ripples continue to grow and grow until they cover the entire pond. That’s what Sara did—she helped change the way people think about perioperative nursing.– Ronda Gunnet, AORN

If you ask a perioperative nurse or a medical librarian about Sara Katsh, MA, AHIP, and the AORN library, you will likely get the same response: a smile, a head nod, and a story about how Sara and the AORN library have made a difference that will never be forgotten.

Sara has been making this difference for 42 years as AORN’s head librarian.

This month, as Sara prepares for retirement, AORN has been taking stock of our library’s evolution to become what it is today: the most comprehensive and most influential perioperative nursing library in the world. And to think it all began in 1972 with a pile of books in a hallway.

Far beyond the walls of a library or the digital walls of a database, the influence of AORN’s library under Sara’s leadership has changed the way perioperative nursing scholarship is viewed within the nursing community. In the process, she has also paved new roads for medical librarianship and she has helped countless others in the nursing community to do the same.

Sara is described by her colleagues as the steady, rock solid agent of change who is able to look at any problem or issue and find a solution. No question is too small and no deadline is too tight for Sara to find an answer or offer help, and she always brings her wit, wisdom, and heartfelt support to everyone.


Sara has achieved more for AORN’s library than could be described in this article, however her colleagues recently shared a few of her stand out accomplishments:

1. Putting Perioperative nursing scholarship on the map
Sara was instrumental in getting perioperative nursing added as a medical subject heading to the National Library of Medicine’s biomedical literature database PubMed, according to Ronda Gunnet, AORN Clinical Research Specialist. Gunnett explains that Sara initiated a letter writing campaign and the term was added in 1996, changing the way literature about perioperative nursing was indexed.

“Think of it like a pebble thrown into a pond—the ripples continue to grow and grow until they cover the entire pond. That’s what Sara did—she helped change the way people think about perioperative nursing.”

2. Making the shift to digital
Sara has implemented several important digital innovations for the AORN library, including the implementation of an e-journal portal that provides AORN staff members’ seamless access to AORN’s entire electronic collection through the library catalogue.

Just this past year, Sara helped AORN migrate from an information platform shared with the other medical libraries in Denver, to a cloud-based webscale management system—making AORN the first medical or nursing library to adopt this new cloud-based system.

3. Building a digital process for evidence-based research
Sara’s work in bringing the bibliographic citation management system called RefWorks to AORN has revolutionized the way AORN shapes it’s evidence-based practice recommendations. This citation management tool enables AORN library clinical research specialists and nurse authors to organize the research reference and full-text articles that also interface with the online authoring tool AORN uses to create the AORN recommended practices and position statements.

Sara was an integral part of this transition to the digital creation of AORN practice recommendations, which will historically remain one of AORN’s greatest contributions to the perioperative nursing profession, explains Ramona Conner, MSN, RN, CNOR, AORN’s manager of Standards and Recommended Practices.

Conner remembers a time when every piece of evidence used to shape AORN recommended practices was collected in print in a large red binder (sometimes more than one) that was shipped around the country to subject matter experts.

“Sara helped us say goodbye to our ‘red books’ and helped us leverage these robust digital tools to target the highest-rated evidence for shaping our recommended practices,” Conner adds.

4. Advancing evidence-based perioperative nursing education
From the beginning of her career at AORN, Sara has worked closely with AORN members, including perioperative nurses who present education to the membership.

“Through Sara’s passion to advance scholarship of every kind, she has helped to ensure our educational offerings are based in evidence—long before perioperative nurses were focusing on evidence-based practice to the degree we do now,” notes AORN Director of Education Susan Bakewell, MS, RN-BC.

“Years ago, I remember working with Sara and the new speakers I was mentoring,” Bakewell explains. “Sara was able to help these speakers develop their programs by pulling in evidence-based resources to support their educational message. These nurses were thrilled for the guidance with finding these references to help them develop their program—references they didn’t have at hand or didn’t know how to access.”

5. Automating interlibrary loan sharing
Sara was an early adopter of automated interlibrary loan practices to advance interlibrary loan sharing. She has worked closely with other medical librarians to outline best practices for automating interlibrary loans.

6. Enabling digital access to AORN Journal archives
Because of Sara’s meticulous archiving of print copies of the earliest years of the AORN Journal, when AORN converted to using an outside publisher, Elsevier, this publisher was able to scan the print archives. Today this gives AORN members digital access to the complete range of AORN Journal issues.

7. Connecting perioperative nursing with the medical librarian community
Sara is viewed as a leader in the health sciences library community, especially in areas of perioperative nursing publications, library cooperation and automation and computer technology in general, according to Margaret Bandy, MLS, AHIP, FMLA, medical librarian for Exempla St. Joseph Hospital in Denver.

Sara has always been on the cutting edge of technology, and the AORN library has benefited from her passion to find and adapt the best systems for literature searching and library management to better serve perioperative nurses, Bandy explains. “I am grateful for Sara’s help in navigating the many different library automation systems that we have been involved with since the early 1980s. Often I was stymied by some aspect of the systems and I knew I could call on Sara for assistance without feeling embarrassed.”

Bandy also explains that Sara is viewed locally and nationally as having developed the premier collection for perioperative nursing and is often called on by colleagues in other nursing associations for guidance in collection development and services to staff and members.

Sara has served in elected and volunteer positions for the Colorado Council of Medical Librarians (CCML), the Denver Area Health Sciences Library Consortium, the Advisory Committee of the Regional Medical Library Program, and the Interagency Council on Information Resources in Nursing. In appreciation for her contributions CCML awarded her the 2006 Marla Graber Award for Excellence and Achievement in Health Sciences Librarianship.

As AORN looks back on the long and distinguished career of Sara Katsh, the association also looks forward to building on the firm foundation that Sara built. Her legacy will continue to advance perioperative nursing scholarship. More than ever it’s data that is driving change and helping the perioperative nursing community to continue raising the bar with quality to keep patients safe. The AORN library will continue to be a force in leading this work.

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