Obituary: John N. Berry III

John Nichols Berry III, Library Journal editor for more than half a century, died on October 10, 2020, at the age of 87, of an apparent heart attack.

John Berry head shotJohn Nichols Berry III, Library Journal editor for more than half a century, died on October 10, 2020, at the age of 87, of an apparent heart attack.

In his decades at the helm of LJ, Berry was a fierce advocate for progressive values in the field. He was active in the American Library Association (ALA) Social Responsibilities Round Table, and continued fighting for freedom of information and libraries throughout his tenure.

“John taught me a lot about the history of the field and how it shapes where we stand today, as well as how advocacy journalism can move it forward,” said Meredith Schwartz, editor-in-chief of LJ. “He will be much missed.”

Berry also taught at library schools across the country, including New York City’s Pratt Institute, the University of Pittsburgh, Simmons College, Dominican University, and Louisiana State University, as well as writing for library publications as far afield as Australia. He enjoyed storytelling and public speaking. He delivered one of his favorites, about libraries as a public good, for E.J. Josey’s Presidential Program at the 1985 ALA Annual conference.

Berry met then–LJ editor-in-chief Eric Moon at his first ALA conference in 1963. Moon hired Berry in 1964, and five years later Berry succeeded Moon as LJ editor-in-chief, a position he held until 2006.

Prior to joining LJ, Berry received his MLS from the School of Library Science at Simmons College in Boston. He worked at the Reading Public Library, MA, then joined the library staff at Simmons and taught at the library school. Berry also edited the Bay State Librarian, which won the 1962 H.W. Wilson Library Periodical Award under his guidance. In 1992 he won ALA's Joseph W. Lippincott Award for distinguished service to the profession of librarianship, and in 1993 he won the Service to ALISE (Association for Library and Information Science Education) award.

However most of the time he was on the other side of the accolades, profiling the winners of LJ’s numerous awards, even after he retired and was succeeded by longtime colleague Francine Fialkoff as editor-in-chief. Berry also kept his hand in by teaching and keeping up his column Blatant Berry as editor-at-large.

He is survived by his wife Louise Berry, director of Connecticut’s Darien Library for 35 years before her retirement; daughter Elizabeth Berry DiMauro; and son Thomas Parker Berry. He was predeceased by his son John Berry IV.

The family will establish a memorial in his name at his local public library, the Richards Free Library in Newport, NH. Donations to the memorial fund can be sent to: Director Andrea Thorpe, Richards Free Library, 58 N. Main St., Newport, NH 03773. Funds will most likely be used for books that reflected John’s interests, but may be used for other library needs as well.

LJ plans to publish remembrances of Berry in an upcoming issue. If you would like to submit something for consideration, please email

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

Louise Schaper

John was librarianship to the core and on the edge informing a few generations of librarians with his honesty, intelligence, wit and insights. I feel fortunate to have known him albeit a little bit.

Posted : Oct 14, 2020 12:49

Madeline Miele Holt

John was a true original. He inspired thousands to commit their lives to libraries, myself included.

Posted : Oct 13, 2020 01:42


John Berry was a giant in the library profession. He used words to clearly show what he believed, and he believed in all peoples free and unfettered access to information. I was honored to know him and glad we had his voice these last few years.

Posted : Oct 11, 2020 05:19

Inga Boudreau

This world, not just that of libraries, was richer by John N. Berry III. Friend, gifted thinker, consummate wordsmith, champion of all that is good in life and people—John, we were lucky to have known you.
Inga Boudreau

Posted : Oct 11, 2020 03:37



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing