Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

Librarian Hall of Fame

Post Date:07/23/2019 2:15 PM

News Header Image


July 23, 2019


Second Santa Maria Public Librarian Dorothea Nelson

Inducted into California Librarian Hall of Fame


Dorothea Dudley Nelson, Santa Maria’s second City Librarian, is selected for admission to the California Library Association’s Librarian Hall of Fame. The formal ceremony will occur October 24th in Pasadena, at the California Library Association annual conference.  Nelson was nominated to the Hall of Fame by current City Librarian Mary Housel.


Nelson was the second City Librarian for the Santa Maria Public Library, serving from 1934 to 1968.  She was born August 23, 1903 in Colorado Springs. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley Library School in 1933. She was appointed to the position of City Librarian at the Carnegie Library in Santa Maria in 1934, and held that position for 34 years until retirement in 1968. In retirement, she served as a consultant. 


Over Nelson’s 34-year tenure as City Librarian, Santa Maria’s population quadrupled, prompting her and the library board to plan and build a new Mission-style library which opened in 1941. Nelson oversaw several building expansions including the children’s wing addition in 1963, and a second story completed in 1970. 


When reading rates plummeted in the 1950s due to the advent of television, she began offering Book Week Open House events through the National Book Committee and became a member of the California Library Association’s (CLA) California Book Week Committee.   She traveled to CLA conferences visiting other libraries in the state and bringing back ideas for bookmobile service, state aid for California libraries, library standards of service, and the latest technology for checking out and cataloging books.


A true champion of services to small communities, Nelson worked with a citizen’s group formed in 1960 to address regional library services. As a result, the county’s current governance and finance zones were developed in 1961-62. She also worked to improve and expand services in nearby Cuyama, Guadalupe and Orcutt, and built a new library in Los Alamos. In addition, Nelson served as president of the inaugural meeting of the Black Gold District of the CLA in 1963, which eventually led to the creation of the Black Gold Cooperative Library System formed in 1964. 


The Library Board named a conference room after Dorothea Nelson in 1969.  Dorothea D. Nelson died at the Fort Worth, Texas home of her daughter on November 17, 1994 and is buried alongside her husband, Paul Nelson, at the Santa Maria Cemetery. Questions may be directed to the Santa Maria City Librarian, Mary Housel, (805) 925-0994 extension 2322.


Department:                           Library

Contact Person:                     Mary Housel, City Librarian

Telephone Number:                (805) 925-0994 ext. 2322   

E-mail Address:             



News Footer Graphic

Return to full list >>