Steadfast librarian passes on

Sanborn, 88, aided Auburn area for over half a century
By: Bruce Warren, Journal Staff Writer
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Librarian Dorothy Sanborn never really retired from the Placer County library system until she took her last breath on June 4. Sanborn, 88, passed away at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital after a two-week bout with pneumonia, according to her son Richard Sanborn, an Auburn resident since 1959. In May, Dorothy Sanborn had just completed her term as president of the Friends of Auburn Library, after serving in the Placer County library system for more than 50 years, according to Michael Otten, member of the Placer County Library Advisory Board, and president of the Placer County Historical Association. “She was the librarian, and then 35 years later, she was the President of Friends of the Auburn Library,” Otten said. In 1987, the California Association of Library Trustees and Commissioners named Dorothy Sanborn their State Librarian of the Year. The library advisory board of Placer County nominated her for that award, Otten said. “She never really talked about herself, and she did not criticize the library operations after she left, and she was highly thought of by the library community,” Otten said. “She also helped the Alpine County library system get their library started.” At the age of 69, Dorothy Sanborn retired as librarian of the Auburn Library after serving from 1966 to 1989. She was the one who engineered the merger with the Placer County Library, according to Otten. For a period of time the library was named the Auburn Placer County Library. Sanborn served the longest tenure as a Placer County librarian, Otten said. But retirement for Dorothy Sanborn didn’t mean resting. It meant joining the Peace Corps from 1991 to 1993, where she taught English at a rural junior high school in Thailand, Richard Sanborn said. “She had friends on the faculty there, and we had plans to go back and visit, after she returned to the states in 1993,” Richard Sanborn said. But then the Gulf War, and later the tsunami, interrupted those plans, he said. After returning to the states, Dorothy Sanborn became a volunteer at Lincoln’s public library, and then became president of Friends of Auburn Library, her son related. “She was always thinking of the library community and serving the public,” said Jane Mispley, an assistant under Dorothy Sanborn at the Auburn Library. “Whatever she did was for the better of the Placer County residents. I worked with her from the time she started service with the Auburn Library until she retired.” Dorothy Sanborn was born in Nashville, Tenn., in 1920. Her family moved to El Paso, Texas in the 1930s, where she attended high school. She later graduated from Texas Western at El Paso, and went on to earn her master’s degree in library science from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. During World War II, Dorothy Sanborn served as a WAVE in the Navy, in Pensacola, Fla., where she kept track of pilot training records, Richard Sanborn said. The Journal’s Bruce Warren can be reached at, or post a comment at