Magazine Feature / People

Former library director Sallye Smith dies

Longtime DU librarian Sallye Smith, an assistant professor emerita, died Jan. 1, 2010. She was 86.

Smith was gracious, with a “willingness to nurture and support young library faculty,” says Pat Fisher, associate professor emerita at the University of Denver’s Penrose Library. “She had a professional commitment to librarianship and DU.”

Former colleague Trish Culkin remembers Smith’s pioneering efforts in online searching.

“She was fierce about the importance of being prepared before going online,” Culkin recalls. “Of course, these were pre-Web days where access was clunky, slow and expensive. There was a cost for each second spent online, and Sallye hated to see that time wasted.

“She was an advocate for online resources and for learning how to use them right.”

Sallye Wrye was born Nov. 11, 1923, in Birmingham, Ala. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Alabama in 1945. From 1946–48, she served as a clinical psychologist for the Army and the Veterans Administration at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.

It was at Walter Reed that she met her husband-to-be, Dr. Stuart Smith. In 1948, the couple moved to Denver — Stuart to join the faculty of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Smith to take a position at Fitzsimons Hospital.

In 1950, Smith “retired to raise a family.” After raising five children, she returned to college in 1968, earning a master’s degree in librarianship from DU in 1969. She then served as head librarian at the DU Science and Engineering Library until Penrose Library was completed in 1972 and several DU branch libraries were consolidated. Smith worked as a reference librarian at Penrose and taught classes in the DU library school. In 1990, Smith became interim library director, a position she held until current Penrose Dean Nancy Allen arrived in 1992.

“When she was interim dean, the library did some renovation and bought new computers says Lois Jones, assistant professor emerita at Penrose. “Sallye researched endlessly to find the equipment that would be the absolute best. It took forever, but we ended up with good quality stuff at reasonable prices. That was typical Sallye.”

Smith was active in Phi Beta Kappa and was a member of the Resource Center for Retired University Personnel, serving on the center’s board of directors from 2001–07 and afterward as an ex-officio member.

Smith’s husband preceded her in death.

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