Merle Nelson Boylan

Merle Boylan, 92, of Bellevue, passed away peacefully October 10, 2017.

Born in 1925 in Youngstown, Ohio to Merle and Alma Boylan, Merle spent a long and distinguished career organizing the information world after he obtained his Master’s Degree in Library Science at Carnegie-Mellon University in 1956. His positions included a tenure at the University of California Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Livermore, and at the NASA Ames Research Center. He then changed professional directions and served in positions as director of three major academic research libraries: the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; the University of Texas, Austin; and from 1976 until his retirement in 1988, at the University of Washington, Seattle.  His vision and focused skills transformed the UW Libraries and its staff into a vibrant organization that embraced emerging technologies, thus providing a platform from which the UW Libraries could soar to national eminence in coming decades.

Although thoroughly dedicated to his profession, mentoring many academic librarians along the way, Merle also enjoyed outside interests particularly in classical music, birds and animals, science, and gardening.

Merle leaves behind dear friends and neighbors who cherished his friendship and presence and who feel his loss deeply.

At his request there will be no memorial service.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Merle’s name may be made to:

Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission
PO Box 202
Seattle, WA 98111-0202




7 Responses to “Merle Nelson Boylan”

  • Susan Brynteson says:

    Having been the chief administrator of three major libraries in higher education, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; the University of Texas, Austin; and the University of Washington, Seattle, Merle Boylan was a highly respected leader in the world of research librarianship. He was also my warmly regarded long-time friend. He will be missed. –Susan Brynteson

  • Darcy says:

    My condolences to your family. May you find the comfort you need surrounded by memories and family. (Romans 15:4)

  • Kent Marvosh and Donna hamlin says:

    It has been hard to realize that our dear friend and neighbor is no longer with us. After nearly twenty years of friendship we will miss having him near. Merle was a wealth of knowledge concerning many things. We enjoyed “gardening” in our small spaces as well as nature watching out of our windows. Need the name of a bird or a plant? Call Merle. He was always the source for the answers. Always willing to share. He enjoyed lunching with us at various restaurants we both loved. He would share his administrative experiences (stories) with us at the various institutions he had worked with, always with some humor. Merle will be sorely missed by us and others he was close to. Goodbye old friend!

  • Ursula Rothel says:

    I will miss Mr. Boylan. He was a good friend to me and I enjoyed chatting with him especially about music. He had a wicked sense of humor. Rest in peace.

    Oct.18, 2017

  • Linda Gould says:

    Merle was not only a mentor to me, but a friend… and always at arm’s length. Many years ago at a very difficult time in my life he was exceedingly kind and supportive.
    His professional expectations were high, but not beyond what he would have insisted on for his own performance. While shunning the limelight, Merle successfully moved the UW Libraries out of the dark ages and into the late 20th Century with a vision for the future. He insisted early on that UW librarians take pride in their library and he accomplished a great deal that allowed us to do just that. I appreciated and valued him and will miss him.

  • Jeff Pearl says:

    Merle was someone I’ll remember as to the integrity he showed in the many facets of his life. I always admired the way he stood for something. It was not that he just had an opinion, he walked the talk, by being an active voice for the things he believed in. I would say to others when talking about the progressive work he did in leading the library system at UW, that I was proud to know him.

  • Barbara Arrowsmith says:

    When the UW faced many budget cuts in the early 80s, with certain layoffs of library staff, Mr. Boylan personally lobbied the state legislature on our behalf. Successfully. As a single mother of a young child at that time, the impact of a layoff would have made me homeless as a staffer. We were told he was determined to prevent any staff from going hungry,having been hungry at times himself as a child during depression days. I remain forever grateful to him.

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