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California Library Hall of Fame: Althea Warren
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California Library Hall of Fame

Althea H. Warren (1886-1958)

Althea Warren, the beloved director of the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL), was a prime mover in the modernization of California’s libraries in the first half of the 20th century.  Born in 1886 in Waukegan, Illinois, Warren attended the University of Chicago (1904-08), where she worked in the college library.  Having found her calling, she entered the University of Wisconsin Library School, graduating in 1911.  Her first professional position was with the Chicago Public Library, where she managed a branch located in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. In 1914, Warren moved with her family to San Diego where she secured a position at the San Diego Public Library. Two years later, she was appointed city librarian, a position she held for the next decade. Warren was hired to oversee LAPL’s branches in 1926 and became city librarian in 1933. Her appointment was particularly noteworthy because fewer than six women were heading large public libraries at that time. During her administration, Los Angeles was ranked among the nation’s top cities in library usage. Warren served as California Library Association (CLA) president in 1921 and American Library Association (ALA) president in 1943-1944, the first Californian to hold that office.  As ALA president, she lobbied Congress to increase federal aid to the nation’s libraries and protested discrimination faced by African American librarians at ALA conference hotels. Warren retired from LAPL in 1947, after which she taught for library science programs in Wisconsin and Michigan and at the University of Southern California.  

Althea H. Warren was inducted into the California Library Hall of Fame in 2013. For more information about her, please see:

  • Boaz, Martha. Fervent and Full of Gifts: The Life of Althea Warren. New York: Scarecrow Press, 1961.

  • Drake, Dorothy and Fromme, Virginia Milbank.  Althea Warren, Librarian.  N.P.: California Library Association, 1962.