‘Bigger than life’: Champion of public library services Regina Minudri dies at age 84

photo of Regina Minudri, former director of Berkeley Public Library

Remembered as a lifelong champion of youth public library services, acclaimed librarian Regina Minudri died June 18 at the age of 84 after a series of strokes.

Known as Gina to friends and family, Minudri dedicated her life to growing and sustaining public libraries and was admired for her spirit and dedication to the library system.

“You’ll know about her for her sense of presence,” said Diane Davenport, member of the Berkeley Board of Library Trustees and a good friend of Minudri. “She was a woman who was large in spirit: She loved telling stories, she loved working with the public, she just had an energy that was electric … She was bigger than life.”

Minudri served as director for the Berkeley Public Library and was president of both the California Library Association and the American Library Association, or ALA, according to an ALA memorial resolution. In 1975, Minudri received the ALA Grolier Foundation Award for stimulating reading in young adults.

According to Davenport, Minudri stood out because of her natural trust in the librarians she hired. She provided her employees with all the necessary tools to succeed and then allowed them to develop their own ideas and work ethic.

Minudri also loved connecting with library patrons, Davenport noted.

“Even while she was a director, she still worked at the information desk for an hour a week because she loved working with the patrons and liked talking to people about the library,” Davenport said. “She loved being right there where public service happened.”

Throughout her career, Minudri innovated ways to spark interest in reading in the community, the memorial resolution noted. She founded the Berkeley Tool Lending Library, developed the Berkeley Information Network and came out of retirement to revitalize the San Francisco Public Library system.

One of Minudri’s most impactful efforts was her work in securing tax funding for local libraries. After Proposition 13 was passed in 1978, library funding throughout California severely decreased. Minudri spearheaded the passage of library tax measures, stabilizing funding for Berkeley libraries, according to the memorial resolution.

Honoring her wife’s legacy, Carol Starr, Minudri’s partner, created the annual Regina U. Minudri Young Adult Scholarship, according to the ALA website. Each year, the scholarship is given to a master’s degree candidate in library science who intends to build a career working in public libraries with young adults. Minudri is also in the California Library Hall of Fame for being an “outspoken proponent for public libraries.”

“She made a huge difference in library programming, funding and how library studies were taught in library schools,” Davenport said. “Berkeley itself continues to attract great librarians and directors because of Gina’s legacy. Her influence is still felt, and her programs are ongoing after all of these years.”

Contact Lianna Leung at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @LeungLianna.