Mary Lou Dewey

[ Age 79 ] Lover of books helped establish the Carroll County Public Library and was active in library organizations.

May 26, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,Sun Reporter

Mary Lou Dewey, an advocate for libraries for more than 50 years who helped set up the Carroll County library system, died of cancer complications Tuesday at Dove House Hospice Center. The Westminster resident was 79.

Born Mary Louise Karcher in Coral Gables, Fla., she was an only child who embraced books and reading.

"Her imagination soared when she read. She loved books: the classics, mysteries, fiction and biographies," said her daughter, Elizabeth Branner Dewey, who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. "She liked anything well-written. She was discriminating."

Ms. Dewey earned a bachelor's degree in history from Bryn Mawr College and, after moving to Carroll County in 1954, she restored a pre-Revolutionary War-era home and garden near Lineboro. She later received a master's degree in education from Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College.

As a member of the Junior Woman's Club of Hampstead, she was a founder in the 1950s of the Hampstead Library.

Friends said she then organized and coordinated a countywide campaign to establish a public library system - as opposed to autonomous community libraries - in Carroll County. She joined the Carroll County Public Library's board of trustees in 1958 and served on it a total of 37 years, in three separate periods, until last year.

She was determined to make the library system better, her daughter said. "She saw the Westminster branch and took the bull by the horns," she said. "She had a vision for the system and wanted it to be where she thought it could be. She took the Carroll County library system into her hands and nurtured it."

At her death she was a library honorary board member. In April the Carroll County Board of Commissioners designated National Library Week as Mary Lou Dewey Week.

"She visited the Westminster branch daily for many, many years," said Lynn Wheeler, director of the Carroll County Public Library. "She was instrumental in getting support for a library system in Carroll County."

Ms. Dewey was a member of the Maryland Library Association for nearly fifty years. While serving on its Legislative and Planning Committee, she helped draft and facilitate passage of the Maryland Library Act in 1961. She frequently appeared in Annapolis to speak on behalf of library funding.

She was a delegate to the Maryland Conference on Libraries and the White House Conference on Libraries. She was a past president of Citizens for Maryland Libraries.

In 2002, Ms. Dewey received the American Library Association Trustee Citation and was named to the ALA National Advocacy Honor Roll.

Ms. Dewey enjoyed studying and collecting art, and attended Baltimore's Center Stage and Everyman theaters.

Services will be held at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Little Baker Chapel on the McDaniel College campus in Westminster.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include a son, Joel Dewey of Towson; another daughter, Ariel Harper of Halifax, Nova Scotia; and five grandchildren. Her marriage to Allen L. Dewey, a Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust banker, ended in divorce.

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