Former CSUN librarian dies at 73

Daily Sundial

In her 32 years as a librarian on campus, Mary Hart watched CSUN grow and change. Hart passed away Nov. 2 after a battle with leukemia. She was 73.

When she first started working at CSUN in 1965, Hart probably could never have imagined the history she would be part of, as San Fernando Valley State College grew and changed to become California State University, Northridge, the largest school in the San Fernando Valley and one of the largest in the CSU system.

Hart was a supervisor in the library’s cataloging department before retiring in 1997. When Hart first started at CSUN, the Oviatt Library was not even built. She helped the library keep up with the times as advances in technology made it possible to move from a card cataloging system to the computerized system that is used today.

She was one of the first people at CSUN to receive training on computerized catalog systems, and she helped to oversee the process of scanning every book in the library into that system.

Sally Mendelsohn, CSUN technology services secretary who worked with Hart during the last eight years at CSUN in the Cataloging Unit, Hart supervised a group of students who organized books prior to placement on the library shelves.

“I remember she was had a gentle manner, and was a good listener,” Mendelsohn said.

Hart watched history unfold at CSUN. Her daughter, Laura Zempel, a recent CSUN graduate, said she remembers her mom being sent home from campus during the Vietnam War, when a peace march on campus grew so large that the National Guard was called in to control the situation.

During the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the Oviatt Library was a veritable disaster zone. Hart and other staff members spent countless hours working through the wreckage, repairing the spines of books, and reorganizing the library.

Since the earthquake left the entire campus looking more like a war zone than a school, this time was challenging.

Nearly every building on campus was under construction, and Mary and her staff had to park far away and be shuttled in to work.

At her retirement dinner in 1997, many staff members and students who felt that the library would not have reopened as soon as it did without her hard work honored Hart, according to Zempel.

Upon retirement from CSUN, Hart became the part-time librarian at Granada Hills Elementary School, where she was instrumental in getting a grant to transform their small library into an updated haven for the children.

Hart, who lived in Reseda, but was born in Pennsylvania, made many friends at CSUN. She was part of the Early Birds, a group of women, all past or present CSUN staffers, that meets every month for lunch. The group is meant for staff members who have been at CSUN for 15 years or more.

Hart continued meeting with these ladies for many years, even after she retired.

Hart is survived by her daughters, Stephanie Brazell and her husband Bob, Laura Zempel and her husband Mark, and Marlyssa Hart West. She is also survived by her grandchildren, Kyle, Heather, Skylar, Galen, Zachary, Kerry, Jared, and Jesse; sister Ann Cyrus; and brother, Joseph Federinic; as well as many other extended family members.

“She was very devoted to her family and to talk about her children and grandchildren, of whom she was very proud,” Mendelsohn said.

A funeral service to honor Hart was held Nov. 7 at St. Innocent Orthodox Church, followed by a graveside service at Hart’s final resting place, Pierce Bros. Valley Oaks Cemetery in Westlake Village.

Niki Mohr can be reached at