Books are Basic, 1952

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This week we celebrate National Library Week, an event close to the hearts of Annotations’ archivists. Since we're both graduates of library school and avid readers, delving into the collection for some library-related audio was a no-brainer for us. The only difficulty came in choosing which instance of library radio to select. From a World War II-era discussion of book burning in Germany to public library dedications through all five boroughs, libraries play a notable role in the historic WNYC collection.

The recording we selected is from the first general session of the 76th annual American Library Association conference. WNYC aired seven lectures from the conference in July 1952. The theme of the conference was 'Books are Basic,' and among the featured speakers was Eleanor Roosevelt, who discussed UNESCO and how books are essential tools in international relationships.

The speakers at that opening session also included ALA President Loleta Fyan, notable for her commitment to making libraries accessible to under-served rural communities. During her long career as a librarian in Michigan, Fyan was responsible for the creation of a bookmobile in 1921, and helped to shape the legislation that created the Michigan State Library's Extension, State Aid and Traveling Libraries Division in 1937.

Another speaker was Ralph A. Beals, director of the New York Public Library, who also held an interest in community outreach, having begun the "Great Books" program there while encouraging the use of exhibitions to engage the public.

The guest of honor, author, UCLA librarian and self-proclaimed "Book Man" Lawrence Clark Powell speaks on the theme "The Alchemy of Books." In this excerpt, he discusses his love of books and his fears of a future ruled by "television, movies, the slicks and the pulps."

Powell is met with laughter when he muses about a "library school for non-book librarians" (one wonders what he might have to say to the many librarians of today with Masters of Science in Information Studies, or, for that matter, catalogers of audio collections). Powell imagines a grim future: a non-book wilderness distorted by censorship, conformity and standardization, and challenges his audience to persevere in their own love of books.

Powell went on to become the first dean of the School of Library Service at UCLA, and helped to found the University of Arizona's School of Library and Information Science in the 1970s. The UCLA Powell Library was named in his honor. 

Audio courtesy NYC Municipal Archives collection.