Summoned by Books: Essays and Speeches by Frances Clark Sayers

[written 02/03/05]

compiled by Marjeanne Jensen Blinn

Frances Clark Sayers was one of the most respected children’s librarian of her time, and, as a teacher at UCLA’s library school, was largely responsible for the large numbers of inspired creative children’s librarians that graduated during her teaching years. so far, i’m enjoying her speeches tremendously – and i can feel so clearly her strong personality and concern for librarianship in all of her writing. for now, here’s some great (and lengthy) quotes:

“Why surrender the air to advertisements of shaving lotions, deoderants, and endless piped music in supermarkets? What if one day, on the university campus at the noon hour, … the voice of the librarian … should peal across the campus, reading some of the great words the poets and sages have written? That would be a glorious surprise. In New York, during World War II, on certain days of the week, the people on Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street were assailed, only for a few moments, by the great words of Lincoln or Jefferson or the poets, booming out from the roof of the New York Public Library. It sounded like the voice of God..” (p.25)

“I hope for the day when we shall be called the belligerant preofession; a profession that is informed, illuminated, radiated by a fierce and beautiful love of books – a love so overwhelming that it engulfs community after community and makes the culture of our time distictive, individual, creative, and truly of the spirit.” (p.28)

“This initial impulse, this enduring faith in reading books to know them and to make them useful, has somehow been lost – not, I feel, because we are of lesser stature than our predecessors, but because, perhaps, there have been such pressured, such multitudinous forces at work upon the culture of our generation – economic, political, mechanical, and inventive – and the joyous obligation to read and to induce others to read seemed too simple a function in a world where everything and everybody were being mechanized, organized, industrialized, streamlined, geared for action in two wars, emotionally adjusted for depression, progressively educated, and made socially conscious.” (p.29)

Aldous Huxley quote: “In a rapidly changing age, there is real danger that being well informed may prove incompatible with being cultivated. To be well informed, one must read quickly a great number of merely instructive books. To be cultivated, one must read slowly and with a lingering appreciation the comparatively few books that have been written by men who lived, thought and felt with style.” (p.30)

“Somehwere, somehow, there has got to be an institution which belligerantly attacks the mediocre, the slick , the sentimental, the commercial, that is typical of the mass culture of our day. Not that it came from that masses. It is prescribed for them and is poured upon them by money-ridden, power-ridden, advertising-ridden radio, moving pictures, press, television. In a great measure… all of these forces are aimed more or less to make us all think, vote, buy, read, listen to, and look at the same thing. I am convinced that the mass mind is capable of much great distinction in its thought, but how can anyone resist the never-ending pounding on our five senses – eat this, read this, see this, buy so-and-so, and think such-and-such.” (p.36)

“Why cannot we besiege our communities with books and the love of reading? … Why don’t we assail people with books? Why don’t we speak their lines over the loudspeaker? We should be noisy about books in a noisy world.” (p.37)