Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Nettie Barcroft Taylor (1914-2016)
MSA SC 3520-13596


Nettie Barcroft Taylor had a career that spanned almost seven decades, investing a large portion of her life to the development and improvement of Maryland libraries, both public and educational.  Her contribution to the libraries and education system of Maryland has had a profound impact.  If it were not for her dedication and persistence, it is unlikely that the cohesive system of libraries that now exists across the state would be in operation.

Nettie Barcroft Taylor was born in Brownsville, Tennessee in 1914,1 and received her B.A. from Florida State University in 1936. Shortly after graduation, she took a job as a high-school librarian.2  Taylor then earned her master's degree in library science from the University of North Carolina in 1942. She became a librarian for the U.S. Army, and served as the command librarian in Heidelberg, Germany, during World War II.3

Nettie moved to Maryland in 1948 and began working for the Maryland State Department of Education, where she stayed for the next forty years.4  While at the Department of Education, Taylor continued to pursue her passion for libraries.  Beginning in 1959, she served as the Supervisor of Public Libraries on behalf of the Department of Education.5  The next year, she began a position as chief of the Division of Library Development and Services for Maryland, which she held until her retirement in 1988.6  This department was responsible for “leadership and statewide planning and coordination of library service” and administering funds at the local level.7

In 1960, she was given two other professional honors, being named as the Assistant State Superintendent for Libraries, as well as serving as the President of the Maryland Library Association.8  In 1967, because of her belief in continuing one's education, she earned a second master’s degree, this one in liberal arts from Johns Hopkins University.9

Through Taylor’s “steady, quiet leadership,” the Maryland library system became unified.10  She used her “personal relationships, efforts, and connections”11 to achieve this feat, working hard to ensure that not only was the system cohesive, but that it received “the funds necessary to support a strong state-library resource center and a library system in every county.”12

Taylor not only worked to improve the system and status of libraries in Maryland, but she also spent countless hours working with the United States Congress, as well as the White House, in developing various conferences and legislation for the advancement of libraries across the country.1314  She has truly had a “profound impact on the profession.”15

Sometimes labeled as the “guru of Maryland libraries,”16 throughout her lengthy career, Taylor was a founding member and president of various professional organizations.17  The purposes of each of these organizations were in line with her personal and professional goals of furthering the cooperation between libraries in order to make library services more accessible for the general public.  These goals also led her to carry on in the legacy of Mary Lemist Titcomb, creator of the American bookmobile, striving to ensure that disabled citizens, as well as those living in rural areas, would be afforded equal services and opportunities.18

It has been said of libraries that, “No other institution has its finger so close to the pulse of community life.”19  As a leader within the library sector, Nettie Taylor has kept her finger on the pulse of community life, adjusting the programs and endeavors of the libraries to match the needs of the community.  Although she retired in 1988, her involvement has continued through her association with the Citizens for Maryland Libraries group.  On May 2, 2004, Taylor celebrated her 90th birthday surrounded by many friends, colleagues and supporters.20

Nettie Barcroft Taylor passed away on October 21, 2016, in Baltimore, Maryland, at the age of 102.


1979—Maryland Library Association Distinguished Service Award
1983—Maryland Educational Media Association, Honrary Membership
1984—American Library Association Joseph W Lippincott Award for Distinguished Service
1986—Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Library Council Outstanding Service Award
1995—Inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame
2005 - Honorary Membership, American Library Association (ALA)


1. "Nettie Barcroft Taylor," Maryland Women's Hall of Fame. Return to text
2. Carol Stegman,  "Nettie Barcroft Taylor," Women of Achievement in Maryland History (Forestville, MD: Anaconda Press, 2002), 98. Return to text
3. Ibid. Return to text
4. ALA/News, “Patterson, Taylor named ALA honorary members,” American Library Association, February 4, 2005. Return to text
5. Maryland Women's Hall of Fame; Stegman, 98. Return to text
6. Stegman, 98. Return to text
7. Judy  Neri, “Maryland library cuts: Essential service hurt,” Baltimore Sun, 6 September 1981. Return to text
8. Maryland Women's Hall of Fame. Return to text
9. Stegman, 98. Return to text
10. Ibid. Return to text
11. Eugene Goll, “Model librarian,” Frederick Post, 6 August 1984. Return to text
12. Stegman, 98. Return to text
13. Ibid. Return to text
14. ALA/News. Return to text
15. Ibid. Return to text
16. Goll. Return to text
17. ALA/News. Return to text
18. Maryland Women's Hall of Fame. Return to text
19. Neri. Return to text
20. ALA/News. Return to text

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