SLO woman leaves nearly $300,000 to local public libraries

Barbara Baltimore
Barbara Baltimore

The late Barbara Baltimore of San Luis Obispo has left a bequest of nearly $300,000 to San Luis Obispo County’s public libraries — the largest bequest in the library system’s history, according to a recent announcement.

Baltimore, who was a scientist, philanthropist and library supporter, died April 18. She left $195,000 to the Foundation for San Luis Obispo County Public Libraries and $99,014.72 to the San Luis Obispo Friends of the Library.

“We were flabbergasted by the generosity of her donation,” said Robert Alberti, president of the foundation. “The foundation will be working very hard to live up to the honor she has bestowed on us.”

The group has created the Barbara Baltimore Library Endowment, from which annual grants will fund projects.

Barbara G. Baltimore was a California native, born in 1934. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in home economics and dietetics and then earned master’s degrees in nutritional science from Cornell University and in comparative biochemistry from UC Berkeley.

Her working career involved biophysical lab research at UC San Francisco as well as working for environmental health agencies such as the Sutter County Community Services program.

After retiring, Baltimore moved to San Luis Obispo in 1997. An outspoken advocate of public libraries and prolific author of about 25 publications, she became a regular volunteer at the San Luis Obispo Library in 2005.

She also volunteered with environmental agencies such as the Land Conservancy. According to those who knew her, Baltimore was an avid walker and chose to live in a simple and frugal manner to minimize her effect on the environment.

At the library, she primarily shelved and mended books. She gravitated toward the health collection, culling books that needed mending or replacing, creating displays and offering suggestions on titles to be purchased.

San Luis Obispo Library Manager Kristine Tardiff said, “She wanted to be actively engaged, and we truly appreciated her vast experience, knowledge and commitment to libraries.”