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Marie Eller in 1954 standing on the steps of Northrop Auditorium

Marie Eller on the steps of Walter Library, 1954.

From Dewey Decimal to digital

Marie J. Eller, 1919-2006

By Drew Swain

Brief, May 3, 2006

Marie Eller, a librarian at University Libraries, Twin Cities, for more than 40 years and a lifelong community volunteer, died last month at 86. Eller was well-known in the University community for her unwavering commitment as an employee and a volunteer for organizations including the University of Minnesota Retirees Association.

"She was a woman who just loved to work at the U," says Linda DeBeau-Melting, associate director with University Libraries, who worked with Eller for five years.

Eller began her career at the University in the 1940s in Walter Library on the east bank, working mostly in technical services and cataloging. At the time, Walter was one of the few libraries on the Twin Cities campus.

As the library profession evolved from the 19th-century Dewey Decimal cataloging method to the Library of Congress Classification system, Eller was always willing to take on increasingly complex duties.

She moved to Wilson Library when it opened in 1968 and witnessed the entire west bank of the campus grow up around her. During Eller's career on campus, University Libraries grew from 1 million to 4 million volumes, established MINITEX to become the top interlibrary lending institution in the United States, and moved from a card catalog to the dawn of the electronic filing age. The University's card catalogs closed in 1984, the same year Eller retired.

"Whenever something systematic needed to be done, she was always happy to help."

But Eller showed no signs of slowing down. She turned her attention to volunteering in her hometown of Minneapolis. With the Minnesota Visiting Nurses Agency, she helped to provide affordable home health care and services to young and old alike. On the Southeast Como Improvement Association board of directors, she helped oversee development, bringing improvements in safety, recreation, and environmental protection.

Eller also volunteered for the Southeast Angle newspaper, the U's Immigration History Research Center, and the University of Minnesota Retirees Association (UMRA), where she could socialize with other retirees who shared her dedication to the school's future.

As an UMRA volunteer, Eller re-catalogued the entire pharmaceutical library during its move to a new building.

"Whenever something systematic needed to be done, she was always happy to help," recalls Marion Watson, a fellow volunteer.

Eller attended the theater and new exhibits at area museums, and she regularly played bridge with a wide circle of friends. They say she had a hand in everything and was always open to new ideas and people. And she was deeply committed to her family.

"I always found her fascinating," a family member wrote. "Her zest of life was very inspiring."

Eller was the daughter of Joseph and Mary Brom and is survived by daughter Linda Matlin of Middlesex, England, and two granddaughters. Charitable contributions in her honor may be sent in Eller's name to St. Mary's Nursing Home, 1925 Norfolk Ave. St. Paul, MN 55116.


Drew Swain is a senior in history, College of Liberal Arts, Twin Cities, and a student staff member in University Relations.