Tannery’s long Pitt career took her from research to librarian to assistant provost

Nancy Tannery

Nancy Tannery, whose 40-year Pitt career took her from researcher to senior leadership in the Health Sciences Library System to assistant provost, died May 14, 2021.

“She was just a consummate professional and added value to everything she got involved with,” recalled David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for Business & Operations. “She was always looking to go above and beyond the task at hand.”

“Nancy was incredibly talented and she was really versatile,” said Patricia Beeson, faculty member in economics in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences and former provost, under whom Tannery started as assistant provost in 2017. “She was good at everything she did — extraordinarily good. She had remarkably strong organizational skills. She was able to bring together really diverse elements of a project and make sense of them. She had the ability, which not everyone has, of working with both the data and the people.

“She was a fabulous person to have on your team,” Beeson added.

Following a two-decade career in medical technology and research, at both the University and local specialty hospitals, Tannery earned a master of library science degree from Pitt in 1995. She then joined the Health Sciences Library System (HSLS) as a faculty librarian and rose through several management positions, from reference librarian through assistant director for information services to associate director for information services. In 2010, she was named associate director for user services, becoming senior associate director the next year.

During her last library position, she helped shape the programs and future direction of HSLS while supervising more than 20 librarians and staff members. She also was co-investigator of the HealthCAS project, a year-long, online 15-credit post-master’s degree Certificate of Advanced Study in Health Sciences Librarianship. 

In addition, she held a secondary Pitt appointment as affiliated faculty in the Department of Biomedical Informatics in the School of Medicine. She served on the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns and the School of Medicine’s Curriculum Committee.

She was chair of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Medical Library Association and co-taught several MLA classes. She was a leader in the Librarians in Medical Education group of the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Northeastern Group on Education Affairs.

In 2009, she was selected to participate in the National Library of Medicine/Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries’ Leadership Fellows Program, which prepares individuals to be directors in academic health sciences libraries. In 2011, she was awarded the MLA’s Brodman Award for the Academic Medical Librarian of the Year.

Over the years, she authored or co-authored numerous peer-reviewed articles, abstracts and presentations on the development of clinical information tools for the electronic health record, clinicians’ use of knowledge-based information resources, evaluation of a self-paced learning module to teach responsible literature searching for research, the design of library-based information services in molecular biology and other topics.

Said Barbara A. Epstein, director of HSLS: “Nancy was not only a consummate professional, but also a caring and compassionate colleague and mentor. So many people at Pitt, and in the local and national library community, benefitted from her friendship and wise counsel.”

In her three and a half years as assistant provost, Tannery oversaw many projects. She directed the implementation of the Open Education Resources initiative to promote faculty use of OER resources on all Pitt campuses, chairing the OER Standing Committee that distributed funding for the efforts of 44 faculty to customize course materials.

Most recently, she co-chaired Pitt’s successful application for the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement and helped to create Pitt’s Public Art on Campus initiative.

“Even after her retirement last year” on Sept. 2, Provost Ann E. Cudd remarked, “she continued key projects in the Office of the Provost focused on Open Educational Resources, the further development of the Public Art Committee, and the Middle States accreditation process. Her contributions have been great, and her spirit of collaboration will never be forgotten.”

DeJong remembered Tannery’s extraordinary work on one benchmarking project for the University: “She volunteered to jump on that and did an incredible job of using her library skills to gather and then compile and present it in a very clear and concise way — a six-dimensional benchmarking study — and did it in such a fast and efficient way. It was a very valuable presentation.

“She was a caring, empathetic person,” he adds, “with a great sense of humor — just brightens any room she walked into and left a positive impression with absolutely everybody she interacted with.”

She is survived by husband Rick Tannery; children Emily and Sarah; parents Eleanor and Leo Hrinya; siblings Jan Gardner (John), Stephen Hrinya (Elizabeth) and Mark Hrinya (Joyce); and nieces and nephews John, Rachel and Mallory Gardner; Ryan, Alex and Jane Hrinya; Amy and Cara Campbell; and William and Matthew Tannery.

— Marty Levine