Linda Walton has been recognized with the 2023 Marcia C. Noyes Award, the highest distinction given by the Medical Library Association (MLA). This competitive national award is presented to a nominee with a longstanding and sustained record of excellence in medical librarianship.
Walton’s nomination was supported by colleagues from throughout her distinguished 38-year career as a medical librarian. She has served 16 years at the University of Iowa Libraries and her primary nominator was Janna Lawrence, director of the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences. “A person of utmost practicality, most of Linda’s accomplishments have directly served the needs of health sciences librarians and those we serve,” wrote Lawrence in her nomination letter.
“It is a well-deserved distinction, and the UI Libraries are immensely proud and grateful for Linda’s continuing contributions—not only to us, but to the field of medical librarianship as a whole,” says John Culshaw, Jack B. King university librarian.
Walton’s nominators all emphasize her adaptability, humor, and commitment to problem-solving in an evolving space. These qualities have made her an indispensable contributor to the wider field of medical librarianship, according to Lawrence. By pairing her natural enthusiasm with pragmatism, Walton has garnered millions in grants and contract awards for the institutions she serves.
The criteria for the Marcia C. Noyes Award include utility in the profession, durability of influence on the field, comprehensiveness of achievements, and ethical propriety. Walton’s nominators all attested to her excellence in each category. In his letter of support, University of Arizona Associate Dean Gerald Perry wrote: “Linda has left an indelible mark on health sciences librarianship, and she has done so with a kind and generous heart, and an insightful sense of humor that is always compassionate.”
After earning her Master of Library Science from Indiana University in 1980, Walton began her career as a reference librarian at the Indiana State Library. She took her first step into medical librarianship in 1982, when she became director of the Butler Hospital Library in Providence, RI. Having found her vocation, Walton continued to deepen her commitment to medical librarianship. Over the decades to come, she worked extensively as an associate director and consultant with the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) across three regions, and took her first roles in higher education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University.
Walton joined the University of Iowa in 2006 as associate university librarian and director at the Hardin for the Health Sciences. In this role, she worked to advance the interests of Hardin and the UI Libraries by securing approximately $12 million in funding from the NNLM from 2016 to 2021; this funding was later renewed in full through 2026, totaling $24 million. She has repeatedly proven herself to be a nimble problem-solver in the face of unexpected setbacks, including helping the UI Libraries respond to the 2008 flood and serving on the Critical Incident Management Team that guided the Libraries’ response to COVID-19.
In 2018, Walton moved into a new role as associate university librarian for the UI Libraries system as a whole. In this position, she administered the Libraries’ annual collections budget of $16 million and supervised the work of nine directors. Her role in steering Libraries’ operations, particularly during the height of the pandemic, created a more efficient and communicative working environment. In January 2023, Walton transitioned to serving as the associate director of the NNLM for Region 6.
Throughout her long career in medical librarianship, Walton has consistently been entrusted with leadership roles in the NNLM and the MLA, where she has served as a member of the board of directors and as MLA president from 2014 to 2015. Walton’s leadership during a time of organizational and technological transition “set the stage for the entire evolution of the Medical Library Association to where it exists today, as a more inclusive and engaged association,” wrote nominator M.J. Tooey, associate vice provost at the University of Maryland’s Health Sciences and Human Services Library.
From early on, Walton has been an advocate for the implementation of new technologies, including internet resources and e-publications. At the University of Iowa, she has served on technology-focused advisory boards, including the Academic Technologies Advisory Council and the Teaching and Learning Information Technology Executive Team at the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.
Walton has presented at multiple nationwide conferences, secured dozens of grants, and authored or co-authored more than 20 publications. Her work in collections management has directly increased the accessibility of crucial medical information at the Hardin Library and beyond. In 2006, the MLA recognized her with the Estelle Brodman Award for Academic Librarian of the Year, a mid-career award for excellence in librarianship. In 2021, Walton was made a Fellow of the MLA, a rare designation offered for “outstanding contributions to health sciences librarianship and to the advancement of the purposes of MLA.” Now, she has received the highest honor the MLA can bestow: the Marcia C. Noyes Award.
Walton will officially receive her award during an MLA online awards ceremony on April 20.