SMHS Library Resources

Updates and information from your health sciences library

Introducing Loretta W. Swift

In honor of Women’s History Month, we would like to honor one of our own. Women’s History recognizes the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society and we would like to introduce you to a woman who made a difference in this School by making a difference in how information is gathered and taught.

Meet Loretta W. Swift

In 1936, the Medical College at UND lost its Class A rating and was put on a probationary status. Within the report declaring the updated rating and status, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) mentioned the lack of appropriate library facilities as a major factor. Although Dr. Harley E. French responded and attempted to sway the accreditation committee’s decision, the AAMC held firm on the necessity of a collection of resources and a professional librarian to support medical education. The Depression and World War II put off the creation of the position but at last, when a new medical building was built, a trained medical librarian was sought.

In 1949, Loretta W. Swift from Appleton, Wisconsin, and a graduate of the Illinois Library School, was selected as the new medical librarian. Moving into a completely empty library Swift set out to build the first medical library in North Dakota. Swift began the process of building a collection, collecting volumes from departments and eventually purchasing books and journals that were made available in the new medical school. Perhaps more importantly, Swift quickly established her role as a teacher-librarian, instructing students in effective and efficient use of the library and its resources to inform their learning and practice. Swift also initiated the library’s membership with the Medical Library Association (MLA) and established an active membership in the organization. This relationship continues today with our librarians frequently communicating with MLA colleagues and regularly attending Association meetings.

Loretta Swift remained with the Harley E. French Library of the Health Sciences until 1968.


Image credit: Public domain image from Dakota Wesleyan University’s 1927 yearbook, The Tumbleweed