Marion W. Francis, the administrator of the Anne Arundel County Public Library, died of cancer June 22 at her Annapolis home. She was 64.
Born in New Orleans, La., and raised in Jackson, Miss., she attended Murrah High School and acted and sang in extracurricular clubs. She was also a finalist in the Junior Miss Mississippi pageant. While earning a bachelor's degree in music from Millsaps College, she performed in its theater productions. She was active in Alpha Psi Omega, the national theater fraternity.
After earning a master's degree in library science from Florida State University in 1977, she joined the Memphis, Tenn., library system. Among her duties she worked in the library's children's section, where she read and held story sessions.
"She transformed the children's hours into a very entertaining session," said her husband, Charles Steadman. "She was very much the actress and singer. She had choreographed musical and had a stage presence. The children loved her."
She was later hired as the director of the Jackson, Miss., libraries.
As a member of the Galloway Methodist Church, she performed Gabriel Faure's "Requiem" at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
"Marion was a vivacious person with a great personality and a self-deprecating sense of humor," said Joan Beck, an Annapolis resident who interviewed her to be administrator of the Anne Arundel library system, a post she had held since 2002. "She was hired to be the face of the library, and she became the library's greatest salesman."
Ms. Beck, who is president Anne Arundel library board, recalled that Ms. Francis "did not know a soul in the county" when she arrived. That soon changed.
"She leased a car with a global positioning system and visited every branch from Deale to Laurel," she said. Ms. Francis also joined and became active in the Annapolis Rotary, the Annapolis Chorale and Leadership Anne Arundel.
"Before long she knew a great many people," Ms. Beck said. "She was easy to know. She could make fun of herself. She was not a controlling person and was wise enough to know what she did not know."
Her husband said Ms. Francis was not a bookish person and had not read books since she left college.
"That may be true," said Ms. Beck, "But Marion spent her time reading legislation and budgets."
She was a member and past president of the Maryland Library Association. After Hurricane Katrina, she chaired its Committee for Disaster Relief for Gulf Coast Libraries. She and others in her professional association went to Pearlington, Miss., with a used bookmobile bus donated by the Allegany County library. Katrina had destroyed the local library and there was no school.
"It's just heartbreaking to see what these people have gone through and what they continue to endure," she said in a 2006 article in The Baltimore Sun. "If we can help to provide just a few moments of pleasant distraction for the families here who have suffered so much, this effort will have been worthwhile."
Because of her love of music — she was a fan of Elvis Presley and Broadway — she became known as Marion the Librarian, after a character in the 1957 Broadway musical, "The Music Man."
Friends said that she also had a fear of driving over long bridges. Because she occasionally had to travel across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, she developed a tool wherein she played a Presley recording and sang simultaneously.
Ms. Francis, who often met with legislators to ensure library funding, was a leader in establishing a fundraising entity, the Anne Arundel County Public Library Foundation, where a memorial fund has been established in her name.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 7 at St. Paul's Anglican Church, Route 178 and Crownsville Road in Crownsville.
Survivors include her husband of one year and two cousins.
email@example.comSign up for Baltimore Sun local news text alerts