Award Winning Colleague…Ann Combs

The General Libraries System (GLS) at UW-Madison gives out an Academic Services Award every year to an academic librarian. In a field of very deserving campus librarians, this year’s winner is Ebling’s very own Ann Combs. The award is specifically intended to recognize, among other things, exemplary working relationships with library colleagues and/or library clients, contributions to a welcoming learning and research environment, and developing work products that significantly benefit library services.

It might as well have been written for Ann, for all those traits are the foundation from which she practices her art and science of helping our patrons and colleagues, especially in her current liaison responsibilities in Basic and Applied Science instruction and reference.

On any one day Ann can be holding an instructional workshop on grant writing, working on the Basic Science research guides on gnarly topics like medical genetics, performing reference searches on everything from accurate tumor marking to long term effects of Lithium therapy, collaborating with the School of Medicine & Public Health (SMPH) on their recent “Leadership in Public Health” certificate, or helping her colleagues with a new VA Service project.

It is this enthusiasm, research acumen, and inclusive world view that makes Ann what Gordon Ridley, from SMPH, referred to as a “relentless sleuth.” Further, he added, “In addition to her scholarly nature and responsiveness, Ann is one of the more pleasant and committed individuals that I’ve encountered in my thirty years with the University. She has a fascinating background and surely is here to leave the world a better place.”

Ann came to the Middleton Health Sciences Library (now, Ebling) in 1995. She was the former manager of the UW Hospital’s Weston Clinical Library (which became incorporated into Ebling in 2004) and has always championed the role of librarians in making information accessible and useful to clinicians, students, staff and researchers, and practitioners.

Ebling’s Director, Julie Schneider summed it up this way, “Ann has always gone the extra mile, and she takes the initiative in looking for ways to improve the services we provide, to assist her colleagues when needed, and to be a wonderful mentor to the number of students and early professionals that she has supervised and guided in their work and professional development….she was even the first to propose having the library provide a course on access to health information from a mobile device, in early 2000!”

We have colleague Stephen Johnson to thank for shepherding the nomination to the Awards Committee. Neither Ann nor Stephen are limelight seeking individuals, but it seems appropriate under these wonderful circumstances to share some of Stephen’s letter. “Ann is at a stage of her career where she could easily rest on her laurels, but instead she is continually enhancing her skills and expertise, and leveraging these in innovative and creative ways…When I have a complicated literature search and need suggestions, or just encouragement, Ann’s office is where I’ll head. Ann meets all the criteria of an “expert searcher.”

And finally, “She is consistently willing to help, and a first choice for her colleagues who know her work will be outstanding. Ann’s even the Ebling staffer most likely to bring home-baked treats to share!”

Ann is that perfect combination of old school encyclopedic knowledge and early adopter innovation. Her sense of humor is self deprecating, her take on the world around her, spot on and insightful. She is a valued colleague and for this writer, a constant friend. Congratulations, Ann. Well done.

Might you now like to contact her, with congratulations or a reference/instruction request? She can be reached at:

All are invited to the Awards Reception on Wednesday, December 4, 3:00-5:00 at the University Club for the annual Library Staff Service Awards and Staff Recognition Gathering.