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Margaret C. Carty, executive director of the Maryland Library Association and a Navy veteran, dies

Margaret C. Carty was a mentor to young librarians.
Margaret C. Carty was a mentor to young librarians.

Margaret C. Carty, executive director of the Maryland Library Association, who had also been a Navy officer, died Feb. 4 of complications from cancer at Anne Arundel Medical Center. The longtime Annapolis resident was 82.

“Margaret took the Maryland Library Association from a tenuous period, and it was a blessing we had her, because she worked incredibly hard at elevating the association that became the envy of library associations around the country. That is her legacy,” said Lynn Wheeler, who served as director of the Carroll County Public Library from 2004 until 2019.

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“And she did it through hard work, love, compassion, respect and extraordinary discipline,” she said. “She got the job done, was an ironclad force, very innovative and a great listener.”

Mary Baykan headed the Washington County Free Library for 24 years before retiring in 2020.

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“Margaret was a very formal lady with gray hair and pearls,” said Ms. Baykan, a Hagerstown resident. “She was very much a dignified lady in pearls who wouldn’t go anywhere, even to the grocery store, without putting on freshly applied lipstick.”

The former Margaret West Creighton was born in San Diego into a military family. She was the daughter of Rear Adm. Liles Walker Creighton and his wife, Alice Starkey Creighton, a homemaker. Because of her father’s naval service she was raised at various Navy bases around the country.

The family owned a home in Houlton, Maine, where Ms. Carty graduated in 1956 from Houlton High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in 1960 in social work from the University of Pittsburgh and a master’s degree in management from the University of Maryland, College Park.

From 1960 to 1964, she served as a communications officer in the Navy, attaining the rank of lieutenant. She worked as administrator of the Building Owners and Management Institute, and even though she was not a professionally trained librarian and held no master’s degree in library science, she was named executive director in 1999 of the Maryland Library Association.

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“I was part of the MLA interviewing team, and Margaret blew every other candidate out of the water,” Ms. Baykan said. “She took a failing organization that was deep in debt and made it into the most prominent library association in the country.”

“The thing that fascinates me the most about Margaret is — and I told her two sons this — that if she had been a man she would have been a four-star general,” Ms. Wheeler said. “She was a lifelong Republican and came into the MLA, which was filled with a lot of Democrats and not a military crowd, and fully embraced the library community. It was a total blessing that we had Margaret.”

“She did far more than lead the Association — she built it from the ground up,” said a news release announcing Ms. Carty’s death to MLA members. “From afar, she was a brilliant non-profit leader and library advocate. Those of us who were fortunate to work closely with her knew her kindness, generosity, and ability to inspire and support everyone she came into contact with, especially new library leaders.”

Said Ms. Baykan: “Margaret was the champion and mentor to those librarians who were in their 20s and just starting out.”

Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., the late Maryland Senate president, who was a supporter of libraries, branded the MLA, “in a tongue-in-cheek moniker, the Library Mafia,” her two sons wrote in a biographical profile of Ms. Carty. “We always chuckled over our mother being one of the leaders of the Library Mafia.”

Working in a partnership with the Anne Arundel County Public library and the MLA, Ms. Carty in 2005 assisted in bringing a bookmobile with 3,000 books and laptop computers to Perlington. Mississippi, whose library had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

“The Maryland Library Association is thrilled to be able to offer this gift,” Ms. Carty, who went to the Mississippi town, told The Sun in an interview at the time. “I’m so very proud that the Maryland library community, schools, friends and citizens were willing to give so generously to a sister library in need.”

In 2013, she was recognized as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women.

She had not retired at her death.

Ms. Carty was an active volunteer and the senior commander of the Vice Admiral George C. Dyer Annapolis Chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars.

Ms. Carty was an avid world traveler and liked spending an annual family vacation at her girlhood homestead in Houlton. She also enjoyed attending Navy football games and maintaining her many friendships.

She was a longtime communicant of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Annapolis, where a private graveside service was held. Plans for a celebration-of-life gathering are incomplete due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms. Carty is survived by her two sons, John Joseph Carty Jr. and William West Carty, both of Annapolis; two brothers, Liles Creighton and Charles Creighton, both of Annapolis; a sister, Alice Creighton of Annapolis; and four grandchildren. Her marriage to John Joseph Carty Sr. ended in divorce.

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