Fervent And Full Of Gifts: The Life Of Althea Warren

If you ever find yourself in need of an example of a horrible biography of what seems to have been a wonderful person, read this. Althea Warren was an exuberant librarian of the early 20th century and yet this dud from Martha Boaz does a disservice to Warren’s life. How dreary to follow the pattern of achingly detailing the early precocious years of Warren’s Illinois upbringing. The year in Europe post-college was the spiciest, but then she soon returns stateside and becomes a librarian in Chicago before off to California, first San Diego then LA, rising in the ranks to make libraries more accessible to the downtrodden and needy. In Chicago, she works at the Sears Roebuck branch of the Chicago Public Library which was “maintained for the education and pleasure of the employees of the store. The Chicago Public Library supplied books and Sears gave money for supplementary materials.” Can you imagine this largesse in today’s world?

Perhaps the only reason to read this sleep-inducing book is for the inclusion of “Read Without Weeping”, a 1935 talk she gave to a Portland library association meeting wherein she encourages librarians to read, read, read, for the love of god, read! As I mentioned in the Library Book write-up, she says to “read as a drunkard drinks or as a bird sings or a cat sleeps or a dog responds to an invitation to go walking, not from conscience or training, but because they’d rather do it than anything else in the world.”