The IS Department remembers Margaret Irby Nichols, former Professor and Associate Dean

The faculty and staff of the Department of Information Science, along with the Texas library community, mourn the passing of Professor Margaret Irby Nichols, who died on Tuesday evening, June 6 with her beloved daughter Nina, and grandson Spencer by her side. Margaret Nichols was a professor in the School Library and Information Sciences from 1968-1991.

Margaret held the honor of being the department’s “oldest graduate” for many years as she earned her bachelor’s degree in library science at what was then North Texas State Teachers College in 1945. After working in public school and academic libraries, including Texas Tech University from 1946-1948 and New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell from 1951-1953,  she returned to Denton in 1955 to work at NTSC's library for several years before joining the Selwyn School in 1963. She joined the faculty of the School of Library and Information Sciences in 1968 which ended with her retirement in 1996. During her tenure, Professor Nichols served as associate dean of the School from 1989-1991.  She was named emeritus professor in 1996.  During her tenure on the faculty she received the UNT's Distinguished Teaching Award (1991 and 1993) and the Distinguished Service to the University Award (1996).  

Margaret was a renowned American librarian, educator, library, and information scientist. She was the premier professor of reference services and information access in the state of Texas. Throughout her many years of teaching, she acted as mentor and friend to thousands of information professionals who subsequently endowed the Margaret Irby Nichols Scholarship. Her influence as an educator was not limited to teaching at North Texas. She conducted more than 400 workshops throughout the country and published six books and numerous articles on reference and information services.  Her publications included Guide to Reference Books for School Media Centers, 1992; Texas Information Resources for Libraries, 1997; Selecting and Using a Core-Reference Collection, 4th, and Handbook of Reference Sources and Services for Small and Medium-Sized Libraries. Thousands of librarians were influenced by her teaching and her mentoring.  For many years, she taught reference and information services to librarians in small communities across Texas through the Texas State Library and Archives Small Library Management Program.

Her peers recognized her contributions by electing her to the Executive Board and as President of the Texas Library Association (TLA) from 1984-85, and honoring her as recipient of the TLA Distinguished Service Award. In addition to her presidency, Margaret served on the TLA Executive Board as the ALA/TLA Councilor from 1988 to 1992.  She chaired the TLA Awards Committee in 1992-93 and served on the Steering Committee of the Texas Conference on Libraries and Information Science from 1990-91.  Her involvement in TLA was wide-ranging and included many other committees and activities. She was named one of 100 Library Champions of the 20th Century byTLA in 2000. In 2011, she was honored by her beloved University of North Texas with the UNT Alumni Association Outstanding Service Award. 

From 1988 until the publication ended, Mrs. Nichols was editor of the Call Number, the alumni magazine for the College of Information.  Thanks to her dedication to this effort, the college will always have record of activities that were documented by Professor Nichols. Past issues are archived in the UNT Libraries Digital Library (

“She was my friend and mentor. From the day I arrived at UNT as a recent graduate to teach “her signature course” along with Dr. Ana Cleveland, she was my biggest fan - helping me to develop my teaching and encouraging me to put my “spin” on the 5600 curriculum. She helped me to become “Dr. Chandler” and I thank her,” said Associate Professor, Dr. Yvonne Chandler.  "In her role as mentor to incoming TLA Presidents, because of “location, location, location,” I received the best of her advice, guidance, and wisdom that helped me to have a fantastic presidency."

“This is a big loss to our college and Texas libraries. She was a role model for generations of library and information scientists. She will be missed,” said Dr. Yunfei Du, Associate Dean of COI.

Dr. Ana Cleveland, Regents Professor said “Margaret was a link to life for me, both professionally and personally.  She had a unique way to reach out to people.  Her ethics, integrity, and compassion are legendary.  She was a tireless advocate for libraries and for UNT."

"Margaret Nichols was a true treasure for all of us.  Her dedication to reaching out to Alumni through the Call Number provided a trusted tool for keeping everyone apprised of the many changes that occurred while I was dean.  I will miss her," said Dr. Phil Turner, Professor Emeritus.

Thoughts poured out from the UNT alumni community:  “ I’m very sorry to hear this news. Margaret was my advisor during my MLS days at UNT in 1975-1976 and I stayed on at Willis Library for five years after that. I saw her regularly at TLA for a number of years. She was an inspiration to me as a newly-minted reference librarian, " said Adrian Alexander Dean of the Library at the University of Tulsa. 

“What a fabulous teacher and mentor Margaret was for all of us!” said Ann Bracey , Part time librarian, Baylor/All Saints Medical Center.   

Funeral services for Professor Nichols will be held at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 2255 N. Bonnie Brae St, Denton, TX on Wednesday June 14 at 11:00 am. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Margaret Nichols Scholarship Fund. Donations can be made online at Checks can be made out to the UNT Foundation with the endowment name written in the memo line, and mailed to: Division of Advancement, Attn: Alan Thornton, 1155 Union Circle # 311250, Denton, TX 76203.

Professor Nichols will be dearly missed.