Dr. Nancy E. Gwinn

Nancy Gwinn
Immediate Past-Chair, BHL Members’ Council
Retired Director, Smithsonian Libraries

Dr. Nancy E. Gwinn is the retired Director of the Smithsonian Libraries, a position she held from 1997-2019. She is a recognized leader in international librarianship, the preservation of library collections, the application of library technologies, and in building collaborations and partnerships.

During her career at the Smithsonian, Gwinn’s achievements included launching the Libraries’ exhibition program, creating the new Website “Galaxy of Knowledge,” expanding the Libraries’ rare book and electronic collections, and creating the first SIL Advisory Board and the Spencer Baird Society to assist with an aggressive fundraising program. During her tenure, the Smithsonian Libraries initiated and became the lead partner in establishing the digital Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) and creating the program’s secretariat. She represented the Smithsonian on the BHL Members’ Council and served as the Chair of the BHL Executive Committee (2011-2017) and the Secretary of the BHL Global Executive Committee. She also served as a member of the Governing Board of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and as Chair of its Professional Committee, which has oversight of IFLA’s professional program. She was the IFLA representative to the international LAMMS (Libraries, Archives, Museums, Monuments and Sites) committee, which is exploring international collaboration. In 2008, she was elected to the RLG Partnership Council, which oversees the work of RLG Programs, a global partnership of research libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural memory institutions working to enhance their ability to support research in all its forms. She served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Cottey College in Nevada, Mo. Gwinn joined the Smithsonian in 1984 as the Libraries’ Assistant Director for Collections Management. Her career includes positions at the Library of Congress, the Council on Library Resources, and the Research Libraries Group.

A former Fulbright scholar at the University of Oxford in England, Gwinn holds a Ph.D. in American Civilization from George Washington University, an A.M.L.S. in Library Science from the University of Michigan, and a B.A. from the University of Wyoming. She has been named a Distinguished Alumna of the University of Michigan School of Information, the University of Wyoming and Mortar Board. A frequent consultant and speaker, she has written on many library related and historical subjects. 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.