Professional News

Ruth Bryan receives Willis Award for outstanding UK Libraries faculty

Ruth Bryan
Ruth Bryan has been named recipient of the UK Libraries 2024 Paul A. Willis Outstanding Faculty Award. Courtesy UK Libraries

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 15, 2024) — University of Kentucky Libraries is proud to recognize exemplary faculty member Ruth Bryan as the recipient of the 2024 Paul A. Willis Outstanding Faculty Award.

Named for long-time UK Libraries director Paul A. Willis, the Willis Award is given annually to a UK Libraries faculty member who stands out among their colleagues through outstanding achievements in their primary assignment and exemplary leadership, creativity and spirit of service. Faculty members are nominated by their colleagues and selected by the UK Libraries National Advisory Board.

“An immensely talented archivist, Ruth has played an essential role during her tenure at UK Libraries,” said Doug Way, dean of UK Libraries. “Ruth has not only helped to preserve the University’s history, but has ensured that it will remain accessible for generations to come. I am so pleased that her efforts and impact are being recognized with this honor.” 

A certified archivist, Bryan serves as university archivist at the UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center (SCRC), where she has worked since 2011. She leads donor relations, archival appraisal, collection management and public services and outreach for University of Kentucky records and related collections.

As the state-authorized Records Officer for UK, Bryan manages the retention and destruction of all university records. She also serves on the leadership teams for the SCRC and the Libraries’ Research & Discovery Division.

“I’m humbled to receive the Willis Award, because it means that my colleagues think well enough of me and my work and contributions to take the time to craft and submit a nomination,” said Bryan. “I’m proud of now being a part of the select and amazing group of Libraries faculty who have received the award in prior years.”

Bryan is a co-creator and organizer of the History Allies: Helping Protect Your Past workshops (Aliados de la Historia: Ayudando a proteger su passado), a basic archives workshop for non-profit, religious, civic, genealogical and other community-based organizations. Bryan is also the co-founder and organizer of UK Libraries’ web archiving program and co-founder and organizer of the statewide Kentucky Heritage Emergency Response Network (KHERN). She publishes and presents nationally and internationally in the areas of archival appraisal, web archiving, university history and archival management. More of Bryan’s publications and presentations can be found here.

Bryan holds a master’s in public history from North Carolina State University and a master’s in cultural anthropology from the Graduate Faculty of New School University in New York City. 

She has worked as a professional archivist for 23 years, beginning her career at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library and working as the Archives Program Manager at the Ruth Mott Foundation in Flint, Michigan before joining UK Libraries.

“I work with a fantastic group of colleagues who are willing to collaborate on any project,” said Bryan. “The ability to draw on multiple perspectives and skill sets across UK Libraries is a real joy. It enables all of us to do creative and impactful library and archives work to connect information seekers with information content and context. I appreciate that the Dean and the Associate Deans support a culture of collaboration and that there is financial support for projects, professional development and travel.”

Bryan will be honored at the annual Spring Celebration on May 16, along with several other award winners:

A 1963 graduate of the University of Kentucky, Paul A. Willis served as a library director for 41 years throughout the Southeast. He worked as a cataloger at the Library of Congress before beginning his Master’s in Library Science. In 1966, he began as a circulation librarian at UK’s Law Library before becoming a university law librarian. He then served as director of UK Libraries from 1973 to 2003, later serving as the University of South Carolina’s Dean of Libraries from 2004 until 2007.

During his career at UK, Willis created the Information Alliance consortium, planned the construction of the William T. Young Library and expanded the Libraries' collections and services.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.