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Illuminant & Annual Report | 2020

The Illuminant is a production of the Miami University Libraries' Office of Strategic Communications.

Making friends overnight

A portrait of Sandy BurwellIf you ask Sandy Burwell why she thrived in the overnight shift, she’ll tell you she’s just wired that way. For the student employees and Miami University community members she has served with a smile during her eight years at the University Libraries — and the 32 years with the university overall — what’s comes to mind first are Burwell’s kindness and penchant for warm welcomes and personal connections.


Burwell began her career with Miami in 1988, and knew she’d found a home. In 2000, she joined the Libraries as an overnight shift manager.

“Not many people love overnights. They usually start off liking it, but after a year, they need a break,” explained Kris Abney, manager for access & administrative services. Burwell loved it.

Abney went on to say, “Sandy is funny and outgoing. She has great customer service skills and goes above and beyond to get what the patrons need.”

When asked what makes a person good at working overnight, Burwell replied that it must be “an internal clock — some people are just wired this way” and described herself as being wide awake at night. Night shifts may seem slow or uneventful, but the Libraries are often a first stop for students on their way home from uptown — and that can lead to interesting situations.

Burwell also helped student employees become accustomed to the nighttime shift. Often, they would be able to work on their homework and spread out a bit, but when they had work to do, Burwell made sure the work was done well. When book requests came in, she would turn it into a competition on who could find items fastest. Students compared their times and enjoyed the bragging rights of being champion.

Lauren Ross ‘20 worked as a student employee with Burwell. “I worked at BEST for 3 years and thoroughly enjoyed working with Sandy during that time. She was always in a good mood and had a smile on her face. She would love to chat with the student workers. She was a huge asset to the library and full of knowledge. Congrats to her on her well-deserved retirement!”

Madison Rossero and Sandy Burwell pose with a boxed Jimmy John's lunch during Student Appreciation Day in 2019

Burwell loved seeing the changes that students underwent from first-year to senior, and it is change that Burwell sees as important in the retirement phase as well.

Embracing Change

Burwell’s goals for her retired life include travel — she has just 13 states left to visit before she’ll be able to say she’s visited all 50 states. “The pandemic has slowed me down a bit — I was planning to hit Hawaii this year to celebrate my retirement,” she explained. In keeping with her cheerful attitude, however, she said that she will instead be able to visit with her grandkids, who are much closer.

The Miami University community and especially her friends at the Libraries wish Sandy Burwell a happy retirement.  It is a tribute to her approachable and friendly demeanor that past student employees often call her up when they are passing through Oxford.

After sharing several stories from her time as overnight shift manager, Burwell gives a wistful sigh.

“I feel like I raised a lot of kids.”