MAC Retiree: Karen Zundel

When Karen Zundel got her MLS in 1984 from the University of Pittsburgh, she was elated to be offered a position at UPMC McKeesport (formerly McKeesport Hospital) even before the ink on her diploma was dry. Little did she know then that her professional life would have a profound impact on her personal life as well.

A graduate of California University of Pennsylvania (formerly California State College) with a B.S. in elementary education, Karen went on to get her M.Ed. at Cal U, too, and to substitute teach for Intermediate Unit I, which covered Fayette, Greene and Washington counties in southwestern PA. She also married William R. “Mike” Zundel, who passed away in 2004, and went on to have one son, Lee.

During her 30-year career at McKeesport, she was fortunate to attend several national MLA meetings. However, at the national meeting in Chicago in 1993 she met Bill Karnoscak, then a technical services librarian for Rush University, who became one of her closest friends.

An acoustic folk music fan, Bill introduced Karen to American singer-songwriter and folk musician, Ellis Paul, at a concert on May 22, 1997, during MLA’s Seattle, WA meeting. Today, Karen maintains Paul’s Wikipedia page, which she started in 2006. Despite its “anyone can edit” slogan, Karen quickly realized the stringent standards for writing and sourcing that Wikipedia enforces. The page moved from a “stub article” through various stages until finally realizing the gold-standard “Featured Article” status about 5-6 months later. The biggest honor, however, came 10 years to the day of that first concert when on May 22, 2007, her article on Paul appeared as “Today’s Featured Article.”

Karen has also serves for eight years on the Board of Directors for the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, held every July in Okemah, OK, Guthrie’s hometown. As the Board’s Media Chair, she maintains the “Woody Fest” Wikipedia page in addition to its Facebook page. She also writes all of its press releases, a project which keeps her busy starting in January each year.

Taking the opportunity to write professionally during her career, too, Karen had two articles published in the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association. The first, The effects of residency on the mental health of a hospital librarian (1989), was a tongue-in-cheek commentary on working with the residents in the three residency programs at McKeesport, a role she most certainly enjoyed. Working on the second, Telemedicine: history, applications, and impact on librarianship (1996), honed her fact-checking skills for her later Wikipedia articles.

She also held various leadership roles in the Pittsburgh Chapter of MLA including Chair-Elect (July 1988-June 1989), Chair (July 1989-June 1990), Nominating Committee Chair (1991-92), Chapter Council Alternate (April 1995-April 1998) and Chapter Council Representative (April 1998-April 2001). She served as a member on various chapter and non-chapter committees including the Pittsburgh MLA Publicity Committee and on the Pittsburgh BHSL Committee.

Achieving the distinguished member level in AHIP, Karen has certainly had a full and accomplished career. With her medical library chapter behind her, Karen is now looking forward to retirement, which will undoubtedly include travel and time with her grandchildren, 5 1/2-year-old Mason and 4-year-old Mia.

In fact, Karen starts her retirement with a two-week, Christmas markets tour of Bavaria in southern Germany, which shares international borders with Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. The tour will take her to six different cities, spending two nights in städte such as Munich, Füssen and Salzburg. She looks forward to seeing all of the sites including Füssen’s Neuschwanstein Castle, which served as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. A side trip from Salzburg to Oberndorf, famous worldwide as the birthplace of the Christmas carol, “Silent Night,” is sure to be another highlight of her journey.

Is it any wonder that Karen expects to have a “full, busy life” in retirement? Obviously not, and those who were fortunate enough to know her and work with her wish her well!





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