Gloria Werner, whose 40-year career at UCLA Library culminated with serving as university librarian from 1990 to 2002, died March 5 in Los Angeles. She was 80.
“During her distinguished career, Gloria’s future-forward thinking produced innovations that UCLA and other libraries continue to build upon,” said Virginia Steel, Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian. “Hers is a tremendous loss to our academic library community — here in California, nationally and internationally. She was a true leader who inspired those who worked with her. We will miss her.”
Werner was born Dec. 12, 1940, in Seattle. She discovered a passion for the arts while attending Oberlin College, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art history in 1961. She went on to earn her master of library science degree from the University of Washington in 1962, arriving at UCLA that same year to begin graduate training in medical librarianship. She rose to reference librarian and then to biomedical librarian and associate university librarian, succeeding Louise Darling upon her retirement in 1979.
In 1983 Werner’s focus shifted to the Charles E. Young Research Library. She quickly immersed herself in a massive technological transformation of library services, including securing grant funding to convert the UCLA Library card catalog into a machine-readable form, a legacy that makes more than 10 million volumes in the library catalog accessible online to global scholars. She also was an advocate for the creation of the Southern Regional Library Facility, established in 1987 to provide space for University of California library materials, archives and manuscript collections.
In 1990 Werner succeeded Russell Shank as university librarian, a role she held for 12 years.
“Gloria was a library visionary whose accomplishments were groundbreaking for their time, serving as an exemplar for others in the library community,” said Brian Schottlaender, whose tenure as UC San Diego’s university librarian overlapped with Werner’s. “As importantly, she cared deeply about UCLA’s librarians and staff, for whom she served not simply as a thoughtful leader, but also as a caring friend and mentor. We will miss her dearly.”
As university librarian, one of Werner’s first projects was coordinating the five-year seismic retrofitting of Powell Library, requiring the relocation of staff, study space and more than 200,000 volumes from the iconic campus facility. The solution was the Temporary Powell Staging Facility, a futuristic two-story structure of aluminum, fiberglass, canvas and exposed cables. Affectionately nicknamed “Towell,” the structure earned architectural praise.
“The solution was extraordinarily innovative and creative, and it was done on a very tight budget,” Werner told the Los Angeles Times.
Powell Library’s reopening in September 1996 allowed Werner to upgrade the UCLA Library’s technological support for the campus community as well as its instructional role, for which she long advocated. The newly retrofitted facility introduced interactive computing classrooms and what is now known as the Campus Library Instructional Computing Commons, an immensely valuable service for Bruins that includes laptop lending services and what has become universal Wi-Fi access.
Upon her retirement in 2002, Werner immersed herself in supporting the arts and maintained a close connection to UCLA. She personally supported the library’s acquisition of the Barbara and Willard Morgan Photographs and Papers, bringing the archive of pioneer dance photographer Barbara Morgan — a preeminent art alumna of UCLA’s first graduating class and among the first art teachers on campus –– back to Westwood. She also established a generous endowment for discretionary use by her UCLA university librarian successors.
Werner and her late husband, Newton, were donors to the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts in the Hammer Museum. She was also a member of the Docent Council at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She and her husband were avid art collectors, amassing a significant modern art collection. In between her world travels, Werner was a season ticket holder at the LA Opera, LA Philharmonic and Ojai Music Festival.
Werner was fond of saying that she was born and raised professionally at UCLA, despite not being a graduate herself. She served as an honorary member of the Gold Shield Alumnae and was on UCLA’s board of Women and Philanthropy. As a UCLA Foundation Governor, she served on its nominating committee. In recognition of this longstanding commitment to serving the Bruin community, Werner received the UCLA Alumni Association’s University Service Award in 2013.
Werner is survived by her son, Adam, daughter-in-law Tammy and grandchild Noah.