Margaret Beckman (1926-2008)

From The Record (March 1, 2008):

Margaret Beckman Armstrong: After a long illness, peacefully, at Beechwood Manor Retirement Home in Waterloo, on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008, in her 84th year. Beloved wife of the late Arthur Beckman and cherished mother of Christopher (Kip) and his wife Adele, Susan and her husband, Paul Hutton, David and his wife Paula. She will be fondly remembered and missed by her six grandchildren, Jan and Sarah Beckman, Bronwyn and David Hutton, and Liam and Daniel Beckman. In 1942, when Margaret edged her way into a "boys only" physics class, it was a foreshadowing of major accomplishments to come. A staunch career woman, in the early 1950's, pregnant with her first child, she "hid" in the basement of a university library, cataloging books because pregnant employees were supposed to be fired. It was a humble beginning for the woman who would go on to become the chief librarian of the University of Guelph's McLaughlin Library in 1971. As the only woman heading up a university library in Ontario at the time, she was a pioneer. Margaret went on to become an internationally renowned expert in library management, automation and building design. She was hired by the University of Guelph as a documentation librarian in 1966. She worked with architects on a new library building and pursued her vision of an automated library system despite critics who believed automation was nothing more than an "expensive toy". During her career she spoke and published widely acting as a consultant in the design of libraries throughout Canada and the world. She was the first woman and first Canadian to receive an honorary professorship from the University of Essen, Germany, and the first Canadian to receive the American Academic Librarian of the Year Award. A supporter of lifelong learning, she graduated with a Bachelor of Library Science from Wilfred Laurier University, WLU, in 1946. She completed a Masters of Library Science at the University of Toronto in the late 60's while working full time and raising, with her husband, three children. She represented Canada at a number of UNESCO Library Buildings' Conferences and taught at the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Western Ontario, UWO. As well she served as President of the Advisory Board on Scientific and Technological Information for the National Research Council of Canada. She holds honorary doctorates from Laurentian University and UWO. In 1975, she was recognized as one of 25 outstanding women in Ontario, and in 2007 was honoured by the City of Waterloo for her leadership contributions. There will be a memorial service at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, 54 Queen Street North, Kitchener, Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 2 p.m. Reception to follow at the church. Donations to the Margaret Beckman Memorial Fund at Wilfred Laurier University would be appreciated by calling the Erb & Good Family Funeral Home, 171 King St. S. Waterloo at 519-745-8445 or through www.wlu.ca/giving. The care and understanding of the staff at Beechwood Manor Retirement Home is gratefully acknowledged.

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