Diane Ledbetter Barlow (1941–2018), a Cornerstone of the iSchool Community

iSchool News - February 8, 2018

Diane L. Barlow, who passed February 6, 2018, was a monumental figure in the history of the University of Maryland College of Information Studies (iSchool)

Diane Ledbetter Barlow (1941–2018), a Cornerstone of the iSchool Community

Diane L. Barlow, who passed February 6, 2018, was a monumental figure in the history of the University of Maryland College of Information Studies (iSchool). Diane was a part of the iSchool almost continually from 1975 through 2017 as a student, faculty, staff, dean, and mentor.

“Diane was a passionately committed, exceptionally skillful administrator, and an ardent scholar,” Jennifer Preece, Professor & Dean Emerita.


Diane began her lifelong relationship with the iSchool as a graduate student in 1975, receiving her master’s degree in Library and Information Services in 1976. She returned to the iSchool as a doctoral student studying children’s literature, receiving her PhD in Library and Information Studies in 1989. Diane’s love of literature and libraries, and particularly of fostering connections among librarians, would continue to be a passion throughout her life.


Diane’s dedication to the field of information science led her directly into a leadership position at the iSchool in 1990 as the Director of Student Services, where for five years she adeptly led teams and brought advancement to the iSchool. From 1995 through 2016, she then served as Assistant Dean, Associate Dean, and Special Assistant to the Dean consecutively, retiring in 2016. Throughout these roles, Diane continued her championship of growth and advancement for the iSchool, which directly shaped what the college has become today – a top ten ranked information science school and nationally recognized public research institution.

“She was one of the most instrumental people to the iSchool – ever,” Douglas W. Oard, Professor and Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs.

Diane was known for being a leader who had big ideas, but also had the unique ability to see and navigate the small details. She fostered strategic growth – gracefully balancing being a change agent for the iSchool as well as a source of continuity.

“She was the constant who carried the program through the multiple phases that resulted in what the iSchool has become,” Ann Prentice, Professor Emerita and Former Dean.

Among her many contributions to the strategic growth of the college was her role in developing and obtaining approval for the Master of Human-Computer Interaction and Master of Information Management degree programs, helping to fully establish the iSchool as an Information Studies college. She also stewarded the ALA Accreditation process, a key part of establishing the iSchool’s academic reputation. Diane is even credited with helping to save the iSchool (twice!) when she championed its purpose and values in the face of potential university restructure.

“Her counsel, support, and guidance were… essential. She was dedicated to the college… [and] was known for her work to ensure the success of the college and the students,” Bruce Dearstyne, Faculty Emeritus and Former Interim Dean.

“Her willingness to take on any task, regardless of how daunting, or how mundane, served as an example and a reminder that this organization, our iSchool, was worth all of the hard work and dedication necessary to move forward its mission,” David Baugh, Technology Officer.


Diane was a mentor to many in both informal and formal capacities, known for her support of junior faculty and staff. She is universally remembered as someone who was kind and caring, but also did not hesitate to “tell it to you straight,” earning the respect and trust of her colleagues and community. This directness was invaluable to her mentees, helping them to grow and find their direction.

“Diane said what was on her mind – diplomatically, but without mincing words! Her clarity and honesty was a precious gift,” Jennifer Preece, Professor & Dean Emerita.

“Diane prepared me to be her successor as Associate Dean. She helped to shape who I became in that role. I am grateful to have had such a strong example of trustworthy and impactful leadership,” Ann Carlson Weeks, Director of Professional Education.

Diane also played a hands-on role in fostered student development. She is particularly known for co-developing the Cathedral Libraries Study Abroad Experience, https://ischool.umd.edu/news/cathedral-libraries-study-abroad-experience. As part of this program, during the summers of 2015 and 2016, she personally took groups of students on tours of cathedral libraries in England. These adventures combining her loves of student mentorship, libraries, literature, and England.

“She genuinely cared about the college and its success, as well as that of her colleagues and students,” David Baugh, Technology Officer.


Diane was just as passionate about the fun moments at the college as she was about her work. She is remembered as a lover of Coca-Cola (keeping a secret stash), England, and shoes. She was an enthusiast of tap dancing, baking, and gardening – and brought those passions to the school.

“She delighted in sharing stories about her trips to England. Diane was a generous colleague, who baked tasty banana bread and brightened the dean’s suite with daffodils from her garden,” Jennifer Preece, Professor & Dean Emerita.

She was known for having a quick wit, for squeezing in a trip to Selfridges of London for a pair (or a few pairs) of new shoes during the summer Cathedral trips, and for making work birthdays and parties special.

“She was grounded in reality and at the same time never took herself too seriously. When a party was in the making, she would take great delight in planning, in buying just the right gifts, and in presenting them in a way that was personally amusing but never embarrassing to the recipient,” Ann Prentice, Professor Emerita and former Dean.

“She was always a pleasure to work with and had a sense of humor, something particularly valuable in times of challenge,” Bruce Dearstyne, Faculty Emeritus and Former Interim Dean.


Among Diane’s many hats was her work as a scholar. She was an iSchool Research Associate and Affiliate Faculty member for many years, receiving over a million dollars in research funding. Diane’s research interests were varied, but always centered on the advancement of the library field.

“Diane was a ‘renaissance thinker’ who drew on her diverse knowledge. She respected the contributions of the college’s pioneers while embracing new ideas,” Jennifer Preece, Professor & Dean Emerita.

Central themes for her were women pioneers in the information sciences, using children’s literature as an education tool, and developing surveying tools to collect information and statistics about academic, public, and federal libraries across the U.S. Diane was a key member of the iSchool’s iPAC Information Policy & Access Center, http://ipac.umd.edu/.


Diane’s dedication to advancing and connecting the library community extended well outside the walls of the iSchool. She was actively involved in the American Library Association, Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE), Maryland Library Association, and Institute for Museum and Library Services. Her service to these organizations spanned over twenty years and ranged from committee and review work to serving on the Executive Board. Diane also served as Executive Director of the Citizen for Maryland Libraries from 2011 to 2017. She was known for her unrelenting dedication to this organization and to all Maryland libraries.

“She deeply understood what made libraries function, enabling her to be a relentless champion of libraries as a source of learning and community for all,” Jennifer Preece, Professor & Dean Emerita.

Diane was also passionate about building a community among school libraries, which translated into her support of the Lilead Project, https://lileadproject.org/, established in 2011. As a part of this project, she helped to study, support, and build a community among school library supervisors from school districts across the country.

“Over the course of her career, she taught, mentored and assisted hundreds of librarians now working in public, private and special libraries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, DC and beyond,” Spokesperson, Citizens for Maryland Libraries.

Diane was also a strong advocate for diversity and inclusiveness in libraries, both among patrons and employees. Diane helped to found the James Partridge Award, which is presented annually to an outstanding African American Information Professional in honor of contributions made to the information profession. Diane has a long list of publications and literary contributions to her credit, but most recently co-edited the book Celebrating the James Partridge Award: Essays Toward the Development of a More Diverse, Inclusive and Equitable Field of Library and Information Science, written by Paul Jaeger, published in 2016. Diane was also the principal investigator on a project to increase the number of librarians from underrepresented groups through a scholarship and mentoring program for part-time students.

“She was an advocate for the many-faceted information community of which the college is a part,” Ann Prentice, Professor Emerita and former Dean.

“Dr. Barlow’s service and the example of dedication to purpose are an important part of her legacy at the iSchool.  The values that she displayed helped to shape what the college is today,” David Baugh, Technology Officer.


Diane Barlow was a student, leader, mentor, friend, scholar, and advocate. Her more than forty years of service to the iSchool and the library community has permanently shaped what they have become today. She leaves us more connected, more inclusive, more capable in the face of adversity, and more knowledgeable. She will be remembered and missed.

“Diane will be warmly remembered. Diane’s life offers us all inspiration about being a competent professional, a deeply appreciated colleague and a person of exemplary values,” Jennifer Preece, Professor & Dean Emerita.

“She was the sustaining force for the college over many years – we will miss her,” Bruce Dearstyne, Faculty Emeritus and Former Interim Dean.

“She will be sorely missed, but the students, faculty, and staff of the iSchool are certainly better for having had the joy of knowing and working with her,”David Baugh, Technology Officer.