Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy 125th Birthday Althea Warren

Today is the 125th anniversary of the birth of Althea Hester Warren (1886-1958), a former president of the American Library Association (1943-1944) and Los Angeles City Librarian (1933-1947). I learn about significant birth anniversaries of former library leaders from the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978) and its two supplements. The excellent entry in the DALB for Warren was written by Martha Boaz. Warren also served as Head Librarian for the San Diego Public Library (1916-1926). The book Turning the Pages: San Diego Public Library History (1882-1982) by Clara E. Breed (Friends of the San Diego Public Library, 1983) has a nice chapter about Warren and her time at San Diego. For an online biography of Warren by Leeanne Morrow check HERE. Althea Warren's career spanned two world wars and she played a significant role in each. Under Warren's leadership at the San Diego Public Library during World War I, the library provided a wide range of services to the members of the armed forces. These included supporting branch libraries at nearby military bases. During World War II Warren took a leave as Los Angeles City Librarian to head up the national Victory Book Campaign supported by the American Library Association. That effort resulted in the collection of millions of books for men and women in the armed services.  While president of ALA, Boaz indicates that Warren worked hard to get federal aid for libraries and for changes in the ALA organization. One of her major concerns was the discrimination against African Americans in hotels of some cities that hosted ALA meetings. Breed includes several quotes from Warren that reflect her administrative philosophy. I liked this one: "The welcoming attitude of a library staff is fortunately contagious, and once a librarian has rooted out all assistants with drooping mouths and snappy voices, she will find that new employees quickly absorb an equable atmosphere. Never hesitate to discharge the most competent of workers if she is incurably sulky, for one will corrupt a multitude, and only she rightly belongs in our profession who is not only willing, but glad to 'smile off her face and run off her feet for the minimum wage.'"  The postcard above showing the Central Library of the Los Angeles Public Library was mailed in 1942 while Warren was City Librarian.

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