Named in her honor: Madelyn Helling, former Nevada County librarian, dies at 95 |

Named in her honor: Madelyn Helling, former Nevada County librarian, dies at 95

In 1991, soon after her retirement, the Madelyn Helling Library was established in Nevada City.
Submitted to The Union

Madelyn Helling was known for many things.

People knew her for her volunteer work with several groups. They remember her passion for libraries.

And, of course, they know about the Nevada County Madelyn Helling Library.

Helling, a former county librarian, died Tuesday. She was 95.

Born in Bismarck, North Dakota, Helling worked for the San Francisco Public Library before moving to Nevada County, where she served as county librarian from 1974 to 1991.

In 1991, soon after her retirement, the Madelyn Helling Library, named in her honor, was established in Nevada City.

Cindy Pawlowski, branch manager of the Penn Valley Library, said, “She got up and fought for that when no one else believed that we could have another library.”

Pawlowski described Helling as “sharp as a tack,” and “quite a storyteller.”

“The room went quiet when Madelyn walked into the room,” said Pawlowski. “She just had this presence about her that we would just stop and listen.”

“When Madelyn moved up to Nevada County in 1974 to take over being county librarian, she really instantly felt like this was going to be home for her and she loved the community,” said longtime friend Desmond Gallagher.

“She was so appreciative of the friendship and the love that people showed her in this community,” Gallagher added, explaining that, in response, Helling wanted to thank the community by giving back through involvement in several organizations.

This included leadership roles with the Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum, the Nevada County Historical Society, and Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, as well as involvement with the League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County and local American Association of University Women.

Gallagher recounted that Helling mentioned to him years ago that she did not want a funeral, as she felt she had been recognized and honored enough during her life. He said Tuesday that there are no plans for any public memorial service.

Laura Pappani, former county librarian and current manager of the Doris Foley Library for Historical Research, called Helling “one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.”

On Helling’s dedication, she said, “She just lived and breathed everything library-related, and she really believed in the beauty and the mission of libraries.”

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at

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