February 16, 2018

Salwa Ismail | Movers & Shakers 2015 — Digital Developers

Salwa Ismail


Head, Library Information Technology, Georgetown University Library, Washington, DC

MSLIS, Florida State University, Tallahassee, 2009

Digital Georgetown; GU IT’s GitHub

Photo by Michael Matason, Georgetown University Library

Digital Driver

Soon after Salwa Ismail became the head of library information technology at Georgetown University (GU) in 2011, a network drive at the university library failed. She asked her team to stay late on a Friday night to replace it. “Things didn’t quite go as planned,” she admits. “Not only did we end up sleeping in the server room and eating in the closet next door to it, we spent the entire weekend up until 4 a.m. Monday morning fixing the issue.”

When library staff began to arrive just two hours later, “we were back in business,” Ismail says. After sleeping on a hard chair all weekend, “my back was not thanking me, but the library staff were.”

Ismail leads, directs, and manages all facets of technology and digital operations for a library of 100-plus librarians and staff. She also oversees the library’s technological infrastructure and innovations.

Among her achievements is the launch and expansion of DigitalGeorgetown, which stalled for years before Ismail’s tenure. After working with a team of programmers and web developers for four months, she launched this site in April 2011 with over 60,000 digital items. Today it houses 201 collections containing more than 210,000 items that have drawn 900,000 virtual visits from all over the world.

She also strengthens Georgetown’s digital holdings by working with the university’s international campuses, including Fiesole, Italy, and the School of Foreign Service in Doha, Qatar, to include student and faculty work in an open access format.

Judd Nicholson, deputy chief information officer at Georgetown, has collaborated with Ismail on a number of initiatives, including a digital assessment management project to find a tool to handle the university’s digital assets. “During this effort Salwa took the lead in organizing all of the GU libraries into a cohesive and thoughtful stakeholder group,” Nicholson says. That is no small feat.

Ismail led the library’s energetic participation in the university’s Initiative on Technology Enhanced Learning (ITEL), edX, and MOOCs. She collaborated with MOOC faculty instructors, new media and technology services campuswide, and library experts in content. She guided efforts to secure the tools and permissions necessary for online courses. She also convinced everyone to archive everything—all documentation and resources, including videos, learning objects, learning goals, and related teaching materials—in DigitalGeorgetown.

“Information sciences is an ever-evolving field, and its trends mold to fit the needs of academia,” Ismail says. “The high pace and constantly changing dynamics pose an adventure for those who question status quo in education.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Jeffrey Rosenberg says:

    Salwa, I am so very proud of you. I lost touch when we graduated Library School together. If you are on LinkedIn contact me, I am still at Miami-Dade Public Library System. I am in the process of publishing my first book. All the best, Jeffrey Rosenberg

    • Cheryl Wilcher says:

      Hello Jeffrey, How are you? Glad to hear you are in the processing stages of becoming an author. Keep me posted as to when it is released as I would love to support my classmate. Take care, Cheryl

  2. Cheryl Wilcher says:

    Congratulations Salwa! It’s good to see you doing so many great things at GU. Class of FSU 2009 ROCKS! Wishing you nothing but continued success! -Cheryl