Long Beach’s “Angel of Literacy” just got her wings.
Barbara Egyud, a well-known champion for libraries and other reading programs, died Monday after a long struggle with cancer. She was 75.
Her contributions towards improving literacy rates in Long Beach will live on, friends say, noting how Egyud used her retired years to give back to the community. She wrote grants for the Long Beach Public Library Foundation and the Bring Me A Book Foundation as well as volunteering with the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library, among other endeavors.
Her dedication to books was a lifelong one.
“Libraries were a refuge for me as a child — I discovered the magic of books at the branch library that was in walking distance of our home,” Egyud told the Grunion Gazette in 2015, when she was recognized with the prestigious Durnin Family Award by the Long Beach Public Library Foundation.
One of her proudest moments, Egyud said, was helping start a Long Beach Public Library program called Raising A Reader, which resulted in 15,000 families signing up for library cards and checking out 400,000 books.
“She’s leaving an incredible legacy in the area of preschool literacy, and she really was a pioneer in getting out into the community and assessing the needs and determining that was a critical need,” said Eleanore Schmidt, former director of Library Services for Long Beach, who worked closely with Egyud.
“She never said, ‘We’ve achieved everything we wanted to,’ The status quo was never enough," Schmidt said. "She really was a force of nature and moved heaven and earth to get preschool literacy programs started.”
Staying out of the spotlight, Egyud said she preferred to work hard behind the scenes, looking on with a smile as youngsters listened to stories or took home bags of books.
“I’m the wizard behind the curtain, and I love it,” Egyud said.
Still, no one had to read between the lines to see the impact she was making.
Diane Jacobus, a close friend and another active supporter of Long Beach’s libraries, was one of the many people who called Egyud Long Beach’s “Angel Of Literacy.” Jacobus said Egyud was one of Long Beach’s most unsung heroines.
“Often times, those behind the scenes are forgotten,” Jacobus said. “This lady is never to be forgotten.”
Jacobus considered Egyud family, and she helped take care of her after the woman was diagnosed with cancer. Others from the library and various reading programs got involved, too, taking turns driving Egyud to treatments or offering other support.
Egyud just celebrated her 75th birthday on June 3, and friends said the woman was proud of that milestone because it was well beyond the age doctors expected her to reach, given her cancer diagnosis.
“She kept really active right up until the end — she still had work to do,” Schmidt said.
Services will be private. Donations in her name may be made to Friends of the Long Beach Library.
Ashleigh Ruhl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.