For immediate release | April 11, 2023

ALA remembers Bill Ott (1947-2023), Booklist Editor and Publisher

CHICAGO - The American Library Association and Booklist Publications are deeply saddened to share the news of the death of Bill Ott on April 8th, 2023 after a brief illness. Ott made innumerable contributions to both Booklist Publications and to ALA during his 39 years on the Booklist staff, 30 of them at the helm. When Ott came to Booklist in 1980, Booklist’s annual revenue was around $800,000. He consistently increased that number, with revenue reaching over $5 million several years in a row. Bill’s work also resulted over the years in tens of millions of dollars in net revenue that continue to fund other ALA programs and services.

Staff and colleagues describe Ott as someone who possessed a remarkable combination of editorial and business excellence, unmatched passion and dedication, and a willingness to work harder than anyone else. He was devoted to his colleagues, loyal to his friends, beloved by the trade publishing community in New York and beyond, and he delighted many with his dry and brilliant wit. He led the staff in implementing significant creative changes—in addition to the print publications, under his leadership Booklist added a complex website and 17 other digital products, including newsletters, webinars, white papers, sponsored eblasts, and live events. He conceived and built a licensing program that continues to get Booklist content in front of a much wider audience while also generating new revenue. Booklists’ total number of reviews increased from around 6,000 in 1980 to the current 8,000, and the number of features from five bibliographies a year to more than 150 columns, essays, interviews, lists, read-alikes, and more. Ott personally wrote more than 3,000 reviews and 400 Back Page columns, and in addition to his Booklist work, in 2017 he served as interim associate executive director of ALA Publishing.

After retirement, Ott continued contributing to Booklist, editing and writing his popular mystery and crime fiction reviews and related content. At the time of his death, he had just completed his final Spotlight on Mysteries & Thrillers, which will appear in the May 1, 2023 issue. ALA and Booklist remain deeply grateful to Ott for all his tireless and innovative work and passionate dedication, and for his outstanding legacy, both in the publications themselves and in the talented staff and freelance reviewers he hired, trained, and inspired.


Booklist is a book-review magazine that has been published by the American Library Association for more than 100 years, and is widely viewed as offering the most reliable reviews to help libraries decide what to buy and to help library patrons and students decide what to read, view or listen to. It comprises two print magazines, a magazine for library patrons, an extensive website and database,e-newsletters, webinars, and other resources that support librarians in collection development and readers' advisory.


The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world. Founded on October 6, 1876 during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the mission of ALA is “to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.” For more information, visit


Raymond Garcia

Communications Specialist

Communications and Marketing Office