Committing to Lifelong Learning and Public Service

Laurie Robinson - June 25, 2024

MLS alum Nancy Balz shares the inspiration behind her philanthropy

Nancy Balz

UMD MLS alum Nancy Balz

In 1972, early information retrieval systems like punch cards designed to manage and search information efficiently from vast repositories of data were laying the groundwork for what would soon become a digital revolution. Some master’s in library science (MLS) students were getting a taste of the new technology. It was that year that Nancy Balz earned her MLS from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. She didn’t quite feel like her education allowed her to keep pace with an ever-evolving field, so she returned to academia in 1994, enrolling at the College of Information to refresh her computer skills and acquire the technical knowledge crucial for modern librarianship.

“The support the UMD faculty gave me built my confidence to pursue my goal of working in a public library with the new challenges I would be meeting in 1994,” she says. 

Equipped with renewed skills and a robust educational foundation, she set her sights on the large suburban Montgomery County public library system in the Washington, DC area. Balz’s dedication and preparedness paid off when she was hired to work in children’s services across various branches, both small and large. In this role, she was part of a team of dedicated public servants who adhered to the highest ethical standards. They appreciated diversity, worked to ensure openness and accessibility, and strived for continuous improvement in all facets of services, both on-site and remotely. The team was committed to being responsive and accountable to their community.

During her tenure, Balz collaborated with several INFO graduates. “During that time I worked with and made professional friends with a number of UMD library school graduates working in our area and came to admire the standards of public service and professionalism that they demonstrated, upheld, and admired,” she says. 

Through her experiences, she witnessed firsthand the impact of ongoing education and the importance of adapting to technological advancements in providing top-notch library services. Now through her scholarship fund, she hopes to provide opportunities for returning students to advance their skills the way she was able to 30 years ago. 

“In recognition of the unique benefits to enrolling at UMD as a returning student, and coming to appreciate Maryland as a dynamic and growing forward looking place to live and work, [my husband] Dan and I established an endowment in 2021 to support students of today, who are looking to change direction within their current institution, advance in a managerial career in libraries, update their skills or gain new ones,” she says.

“I hope by following the example of the fund established by a group of the friends of Parker Hamilton upon her retirement a number of years ago, that the future of public community libraries in Maryland will be in good hands with the help of this fund, even in this small way.”