Director, Smithsonian Libraries

Nancy E. Gwinn


Dr. Nancy E. Gwinn is the director of the Smithsonian Libraries. She is a recognised leader in international librarianship and in building collaborations and partnerships. During her tenure, the Libraries initiated and became the lead partner in establishing the international digital Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) and administering the program’s secretariat. She is the immediate past chair of the BHL Members Council.

Gwinn has been a member of the governing board of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and chair of its Professional Committee. She is currently chair of the IFLA Management and Marketing Section and a consultant to the IFLA Leadership Development Programme.

A former Fulbright scholar at the University of Oxford, Gwinn holds a doctorate in American civilization from George Washington University, a master in library science from the University of Michigan and a bachelor of arts from the University of Wyoming. She has been named a Distinguished Alumna of the University of Michigan School of Information and of the University of Wyoming, which also awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2013. 

How to bring millions of researchers to your (virtual) doorstep: the case of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

In 2004, librarians from natural history museums and botanical gardens gathered to see if it were possible to help remove the number one obstacle preventing faster identification of new species on a planet where every day, according to one estimate, 25 to 150 species are going extinct. In 2016, the Biodiversity Heritage Library celebrated its 10th anniversary and received over 2 milllion visits.  Biologists report that BHL has had “a big, positive impact” on their research, is “the first place” they go, and is the “go-to resource.” How did this happen? This presentation reveals the answer.