Nancy E. Gwinn graduated from the University of Wyoming with a B.A. in English and went on to receive an M.S. in library science from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in American civilization from George Washington University. She also is a former Fulbright Scholar at the University of Oxford in England.
Since 1997, Gwinn has served as director of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, a 22-branch system with facilities from New York City to the Republic of Panama. She joined the Smithsonian in 1984 as assistant director for library collections management.
She has held several leadership roles in her field, including chair of the Association of Research Libraries Committee on Preservation of Library Materials and secretary of the Standing Committee on Preservation and Conservation of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutes. She also pioneered the RLG Preservation Program, which developed and funded a model for cooperative preservation microfilming.
Also, Gwinn is author of Preservation Microfilming: A Guide for Librarians and Archivists, which won the 1988 Waldo Gifford Leland Award from the Society of American Archivists.