Mary Doty, the longtime Minneapolis Library Board member who helped usher in the new Central Library and who was known for her sharp intellect and gracious leadership while serving as board chair, died March 6. She was 85.
Doty was the only endorsed Republican in public office in Minneapolis when she stepped down from the board in 2001. Her DFL-endorsed colleagues elected her board president several times during her 18-year tenure.
“She was really able to draw people out in terms of what their viewpoints were and bring people to consensus in a way that everyone felt good,” said Kathleen Lamb, a Minneapolis attorney and member of the Hennepin County Library Board. “She was steadfast in her stewardship of the library.”
Doty called the realization of a new library in downtown Minneapolis the highlight of her service to the library system. Its construction was assured by the broadly supported passage of a $140 million referendum in 2000.
The 353,000-square-foot Central Library, designed by architect Cesar Pelli, opened in 2006. Doty and her husband, U.S. District Judge David S. Doty, made a significant personal contribution to the library’s construction, and a second-floor boardroom is named in their honor.
Mary Doty was born on Dec. 21, 1929, in Minneapolis. She attended Minneapolis South High School and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1951 with an education degree. She taught in Cloquet, Minn., and in Minneapolis Public Schools.
She championed education for all, especially girls and women, as a member of the American Association of University Women.
A prodigious reader who was known to make spot-on recommendations to others looking for a good book, Doty joined the friends of the Minneapolis Public Library before being elected to serve on the Library Board in 1983.
“She was very levelheaded, very intelligent,” said Laurie Savran, who served on the board with Doty. “She had a lot of good contacts and networks that the rest of us didn’t have because the rest of us were Democrats.”
When the board decided to pursue building a new library, Doty worked on all aspects of the planning, from helping to choose the architect to the carpet and furniture, said Savran.
Doty served on the board at a time of tremendous change within the library system, as the Internet made new services possible but also threatened to change the library’s role.
“Mary was part of a group that helped shepherd in a really new era for the Minneapolis public library,” said Kit Hadley, director of the St. Paul Public Library.
If board decisions were not publicly popular, Doty could be counted on to follow her values, said Hennepin County Library Board Member Jane Shanard.
“Mary never backed down from something she believed in, whether politics or the library,” she said.
Doty also served on the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation, the Metropolitan Library Service Agency, the Urban Libraries Council and the Minnesota Nursing Board, and was a trustee of the Metropolitan State Foundation.
Her family asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations go to the Mary Doty Memorial Fund, Friends of the Hennepin County Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 55401.
Services will be held Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Mark, 519 Oak Grove St., Minneapolis. A reception will follow at the Woman’s Club, 410 Oak Grove St.
Doty is survived by her husband, three children and four grandchildren.