Skip to main content

This website is no longer being updated. Visit Dartmouth Now for all news published after June 7, 2010.

Dartmouth News
>  News Releases >   2006 >   December

In Memoriam: Margaret A. Otto16th Librarian of Dartmouth College (1937 - 2006)

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 12/11/06 • Susan Knapp • (603) 646-3661

Margaret A. Otto
Margaret A. Otto in 1997 (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Margaret A. Otto, 16th Librarian of Dartmouth College, died at age 69 on Sunday, Dec. 10, in Hanover, N.H., following a courageous battle with cancer.

Dartmouth President James Wright said, "Margaret was a wonderful colleague and friend - and for so many years stewarded Dartmouth libraries to best serve our faculty and students. We will surely miss her, but her legacy lives on in so many ways on the Dartmouth campus and beyond."

Otto became the first woman to lead the Dartmouth College Library in 1979. Under her directorship, which spanned 21 years, the library made major advances. Foremost among her many successes was her establishment of a strong service ethic across the libraries and a dedication to customer service among her staff. She is also remembered for the growth of collections and the development of access tools she oversaw while at Dartmouth.

She foresaw the coming information technology revolution and positioned the library to embrace the digital age through the creation of one of the first online library catalogs in the country. Throughout her career she continued to support the early adoption of new electronic services and resources, recognizing the value they brought to the faculty and students at Dartmouth. She understood the historic importance of the library's collections, creating a preservation department to ensure their long-term conservation, and overseeing the acquisition of the two millionth volume to the collection.

Also during her tenure a number of major library building projects were completed, including the construction of both the Matthews-Fuller Biomedical Library at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and Berry Library on the campus in Hanover; the renovation of Webster Hall for the Rauner Special Collections Library; and the expansion of the Paddock Music Library.

Prior to her tenure at Dartmouth Otto was employed from 1964-1979 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries. She began her career there as assistant science librarian, rising to become the associate director. She was a long-time member of the American Library Association and was an active participant on many committees and professional organizations from the state to the national level. She served on the Executive Board of the Association of Research Libraries, was a member of the Board of Governors for the Research Libraries Group, and served on a number of important working groups and committees for that organization. She was also active at the local level and served as a member of the corporation for the Howe Library in Hanover, N.H.

Margaret Otto
From left to right: Susan and James Wright, Margaret Otto, Jeffrey Horrell at the unveiling of the Otto portrait earlier this year. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Born in Boston on Oct. 22, 1937, Otto received a bachelor's degree from Boston University in 1960 with a major in English literature. She received a Master of Science degree in 1963 from Simmons College School of Library Science and an M.A. in English literature from Simmons in 1970.

Upon her retirement in 2000 she split her residence between her two loves, the community of Hanover and Dartmouth and the ocean off of Cape Cod.

Jeffrey Horrell, current Dean of Libraries and Librarian of the College said, "Margaret Otto's gentle but determined leadership helped shape the Dartmouth College Library in an era of emerging technologies. For Margaret, technology was not an end in itself, but for how it could transform discovery, teaching, research and learning for the Dartmouth community. Her legacy lives in our work everyday and we are so grateful for it. Throughout her career, Margaret remained a modest person and was known for her quick and sharp wit and sense of humor."

She is survived by her two sons, Christopher and Peter, a professor of mathematics at Willamette University in Salem, Ore. and his wife, Susan; her two grandchildren, Tobin and Quinlin; her sister, Joan, and her husband John, of Sudbury, Mass.; and her niece Nicole, of Somerville, Mass.; and her nephew John-David and his wife Megan of Cambridge, Mass.

A service for Ms. Otto will be held at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Hanover, N.H. at 12 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 15. A reception will follow in the 1902 Room of Baker Library. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Upper Valley Humane Society and the Salvation Army.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

Recent Headlines from Dartmouth News: