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Nina Woo Matheson

Nina Woo Matheson
Date: 1994
Medium: Photograph
Dimensions: 58 x 47 in.
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Nina Woo Matheson


Matheson, former director of Johns Hopkins’ Welch Medical Library, was born in Seattle. She received a B.A. in English in 1956 and an M.L. in 1958 from the University of Washington. After a brief internship with the New York Public Library, Matheson assumed an entry-level position at the National Library of Medicine in 1959.

Matheson gained experience in library organization and library information technology in career moves to Indiana University and the University of Missouri School of Medicine. In 1971, she returned to the National Library of Medicine and continued her work in data management systems and program planning. In 1974, she became director of the Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library at George Washington University, where she was instrumental in developing a consortium of Washington area medical libraries.

In 1980, Matheson became the assistant director for health information management studies at the Association of American Medical Colleges. She and John A.D. Cooper, as principal investigators in a National Library of Medicine study of guidelines for the health sciences library, published a landmark report entitled, "Academic Information in the Academic Health Sciences Center: Roles for the Library in Information Management.” In 1982, she returned to the National Library of Medicine to implement the report's recommendations. That year she penned the "Matheson report," in which she was the first to spell out the concept of medical libraries not as institutions that preserve books and journals, but as institutions that manage and integrate information by means of advanced technology. The guiding principle is that information must be available where the need is, rather than making the user come to the library.

In 1984, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine appointed Matheson associate professor of medical information and director of the William H. Welch Medical Library. During her tenure (1984-1993), the Welch Library became a leader in the development of an information system's infrastructure for the retrieval and management of scientific knowledge. She developed a system in which items like genetic databases or journal articles, from the Welch and other sites, are fully available online.

In 1990, she and her husband established William & Nina Matheson Books, a member of the Washington Antiquarian Booksellers Association. The company specializes in scholarly bibliography, modern literature and poetry, and 20th century literary private presses. Matheson retired from Johns Hopkins in December, 1993, the same year in which she received the Marcia C. Noyes Award of the Medical Library Association, the profession's highest distinction.