Elizabeth Blake

College: College of Liberal Arts
Degree: BA, psychology, 2020
Hometown: Yeadon, Pennsylvania

Elizabeth Blake, CLA ’20, is blazing a path for Black women in the field of library sciences as the Eugene Garfield Health Sciences Librarianship Resident at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), where she performs deep research into medical literature for doctors and nurses at Penn Medicine, the university’s health system.

Between the lines

Growing up in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Blake never thought she was destined to become a librarian. She admits she wasn’t much of a reader and never dreamed of working among huge stacks of books every day. She was more of a history kid.

“I could tell you all the presidents from Washington to Bush,” Blake said. “But I really wasn’t big into books.”

She did have traits essential to being a good librarian: organization and practicality. In high school, Blake volunteered in the occupational therapy clinic at a local Veterans Affairs medical center, and the experience convinced her that pursuing a degree in the medical sciences to one day become a therapist made sense. When it came time to start thinking about college, Blake’s parents convinced her to first attend Delaware County Community College (DCCC) as a cost-saving measure.

Blake set off, first to DCCC for her associate’s degree, and then to Temple University for her bachelor’s. She liked the programs offered by Temple, and its affordability was a major selling point.

Turning the page

At Temple, Blake at first pursued a degree in recreational therapy at the College of Public Health. She enjoyed learning about the field. But there was a problem: as hard as she tried, she just couldn’t pass a course required to obtain the degree.

Blake took the setback in stride, transferring majors to pursue a psychology degree in the College of Liberal Arts. Then, just as she was getting ready to graduate, the COVID-19 pandemic descended, and Blake once again felt a sense of uncertainty.

Fortunately, she says, Temple helped her find her way. She worked with staff at the university’s Career Center on a career evaluation.

“The second career listed was a health information specialist, which is really a medical librarian,” Blake says. “I thought that sounded interesting.”

By chance, Blake had already been working in Delaware County’s library system, a job she took to help pay the bills. After her time at the Career Center and at the urging of Mary Gazdik, a library director in the system, Blake took the plunge and decided to pursue it as a career.

Elizabeth Blake looking into the camera.
Elizabeth Blake posing for a photo.

“What I love about this career is working with other people that I never thought I would work with. I’m working with nurses, I’m working with professors, I’m working with doctors … You need information to know what you’re doing, and the latest information, and a librarian can help.”
–Elizabeth Blake
Health sciences librarianship resident

By the books

Just a few years later, the decision has paid off. After obtaining a master’s degree in library and information science at Pennsylvania Western University Clarion, Blake worked for a short time as head of technical services for the J. Lewis Crozer Library in Chester, Pennsylvania.

Her big break came in 2022, when she was named the Eugene Garfield Health Sciences Librarianship Resident at the University of Pennsylvania. Under a three-year residency, Blake now works primarily with nurses and doctors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and other Penn Medicine institutions. She is a dependable information source for medical personnel, performing deep dives into trade journals and accessing other resources to assist with their research and work caring for patients.

“There is so much information out there, and so many different databases for so many different things,” Blake said. “You can use it to help people understand accurate information and how to use it for good. Because doctors want to help people, but they need information to know what they’re doing.”

Blake is also proud of helping lead the way for Black women in the profession. On her first day on the job at UPenn, she met Carla Hayden, the current librarian of the U.S. Congress, who when appointed in 2016, became the first African American and first woman to ever hold the office.

“I went to a library conference and realized that there were not a lot of people of color,” Blake said. “I remember thinking that I need to expand this field for more people of color. I’m not going to wait for somebody else to do it.”