Annually, UW alumni, current or former trustees and faculty are eligible to nominate, for honorary degrees, individuals who embody the university’s high ideals; exemplify the values of excellence, service and integrity; and have distinguished accomplishments in their professions or contributions to the sciences, arts, humanities, public service and service to humanity. Submissions are referred to a joint committee, headed by UW President Tom Buchanan, and nominees who receive votes from two-thirds of the committee are recommended for approval.
Gwinn received her Bachelor of Arts in English at UW in 1967. She advanced through increasingly responsible positions at libraries in California and Washington, D.C., and began work at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries starting in 1984. She was named the director in 1997.
Maggie Farrell, dean of libraries at UW, says Gwinn has led the Smithsonian Libraries through significant technological changes that increased the profile of the libraries within the Smithsonian as well as within the profession.
“Once viewed as a special library serving only Smithsonian staff, the Smithsonian Libraries are now considered an international leader in modern library methods, especially in the area of digitization,” Farrell says. “Through (Gwinn’s) efforts, the Smithsonian Libraries are contributing content to critical research projects, ensuring that the American public has access to the deep resources of the Smithsonian Institution.”
As a leader in librarianship, Gwinn has been active in the American Library Association (ALA) and the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA). Since 2003, Gwinn has held several leadership positions within IFLA, including the Publications Committee and serving on the Governing Board.
Among her publications, two were awarded, respectively, the Waldo Gifford Leland prize of the Society of American Archivists and the American Library Association’s Blackwell North American Scholarship Award. Her most recent work has focused on aspects of the joint history of the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress.
Gwinn’s many contributions have advanced national and international librarianship — she was a leader in preservation during a period when libraries transitioned from primarily print collections to a variety of print, micro and electronic collections. Her outstanding accomplishments have instructed librarians and assisted libraries worldwide in developing preservation and digital programs.
“Her work within IFLA and with national libraries attests that she is a global citizen extending Smithsonian collections and assisting libraries around the world to improve access to rich collections that benefit humankind,” Farrell says.
Photo above: Dean of UW Libraries Maggie Farrell with Nancy Gwinn, Director of Smithsonian Libraries, at a special reception on Friday, May 10th in Laramie.