On any given day, you can find Saira Raza, business librarian for Emory’s Goizueta Business School, eagerly assisting students in locating the perfect reference for a project. Then later that evening she switches from librarian to musician, effortlessly serenading an audience with the strings of her cello.
“I am one of those people who is interested in a lot of things and can’t pick just one. Thus, I became a librarian,” Raza said.
Saira means princess in Urdu, a language spoken in Pakistan and parts of India where her father’s family originated. She is super inquisitive, a visual artist, musician, songwriter and producer; an awesome combination for a librarian.
Raised in upstate New York, Raza has degrees in international and Africana studies along with a master of library science from the University of North Texas. She worked as a corporate librarian for Lehman Brothers and later King & Spalding before joining Emory.
In her role at Goizueta’s business library, Raza supports students in the PhD and executive MBA programs, which entails aiding students in detailed research on companies, industries, class projects and career exploration. She enjoys the discovery and vibe of the doctoral students while feeling a kindred spirit with the EMBAs.
“I am someone who went back to school while working full-time, so I am able to relate to the EMBAs in a way that is helpful and valuable,” Raza said. “I know the challenge of coming back to school when you haven’t been for a really long time. Being witness to their journey is my favorite part, and when they graduate, I am in tears because their kids are there to see the culmination of their hard work.”
Music and art also serve as an emotional high for the multi-talented librarian.
“I joined the church choir at age five or six because I really wanted to sing. I began playing the cello at age 10,” Raza said. “I’ve always found a way to make room for music and art in my life.”
Throughout college and a variety of jobs, including running a coffee house in Atlanta’s West End, Raza has nurtured her creative side. An accomplished musician and songwriter, she performs as Sister Sai and has produced four albums, won numerous awards and, recently, began providing and writing music for short and feature-length films. Her futuristic and moody music perfectly complements many films.
“Sometimes I create music for a film and other times, filmmakers I know want to use music I’ve already composed,” Raza said. Today, Raza is melding the academic with the artistic as she undertakes several music projects at Emory.
She is the sound editor for an upcoming video tribute to the late Pellom McDaniels, who was the curator of African American collections at the university’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. He passed away in April.
“I‘ve (also) been asked to help with the music for a new podcast series still under development for the library,” Raza added. “I’m really excited about the possibilities. I like this direction for me.”