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Mary Niles Maack: 1945-2023

By Staff
UCLA Professor Emerita Mary Niles Maack

Scholar of international comparative librarianship and history of the book shared expertise across the globe.

UCLA Professor Emerita Mary Niles Maack, an award-winning scholar on the history of the book and comparative librarianship died of cancer at age 77 on January 23, surrounded by her husband, son, and daughter-in-law at her son’s home in Massachusetts.  

Mary was known for her scholarship on international comparative librarianship, the history of the book and women’s history. She achieved her life’s goal of becoming a tenured professor at the University of Minnesota and then UCLA, and continued teaching and writing well into retirement. She loved France and did notable work there, serving as a Fulbright Professor at the French National Library School in Villeurbanne and winning multiple competitive grants to do research at the Bibliotheque Nationale, one of her favorite places. 

Across her career, Mary had the opportunity to lecture or consult in fourteen countries, including Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, France, Canada, Russia and Germany. She published important books on the history of libraries and archives in Senegal (Libraries in Senegal), women in librarianship (Aspirations in Mentoring in an Academic Environment) and women’s history (Anne Morgan: Photography, Philanthropy and Advocacy). She wrote numerous articles and essays, co-edited the third edition of the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, and played important roles in the Library History Roundtable of the American Library Association, the International Federation of Library Associations, and as head of the California Center for the Book.

Mary’s friends remember her as a kind, intelligent, generous and sensitive soul with a wise and thoughtful presence. Her passions included art, art history, poetry, botany, reading, listening to music and learning about other cultures. She loved visiting museums and attending lectures. Mary found ways to travel whenever she could to New York, London, and Paris to do research and in retirement went on Road Scholar tours to England, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, China and Tibet, Australia, and several US cities, always with a focus on learning. 

Mary invested in the communities around her. She was a poet and a founder of the Westwood Presbyterian Church (WPC) Poetry Group and coordinated the WPC Women Reading series. She was also passionate about social justice. A long-time non-violent peace advocate who belonged to the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Mary wrote political as well as meditative poems. She opposed Vietnam and other U.S. wars during her lifetime and celebrated the Christmas cease fire during the Russia-Ukraine conflict in January 2023, shortly before her death.

Mary Niles Maack was born in Paris, Illinois in December 1945 to Augustus H. and Lillie P. Niles. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with high honors in History from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and earned her Masters and Doctorate of Library Science from Columbia University in New York City. She is survived by her husband of 54 years, Stephen Maack, her son Jonathan Maack, daughter-in-law Jael Maack, and two grandchildren, Reed (10) and Thea (8), whom she adored. 

A memorial service for Mary will be held at 1 p.m. on February 18, at Westwood Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles, where she was an active member for 36 years. The service will be live-streamed on the church YouTube channel

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Mary's name to the American Women’s History Museum, Westwood Presbyterian Church, the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, or the Fellowship of Reconciliation.