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Apr 25

A Librarian Speaks at the Kansas Agricultural Meeting of 1913

Posted on April 25, 2022 at 2:10 PM by Bill Sowers

Spooner_Hall smallSpooner Hall... built in 1893-94 as the University of Kansas' first library building.
(Photo from Wikipedia article on Spooner Hall)

A Librarian Speaks at the Kansas Agricultural Meeting of 1913

In January, 1913, Carrie Watson, University of Kansas librarian, stood before the Kansas State Board of Agriculture and gave a powerful message on books and reading, "Of the Making of Many Books There is no End."  

Watson admitted from the get-go that she was not someone who could expound on agricultural topics but gave this reason for her presence at the meeting...

"In reading one of the biennial reports of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture I noticed that the president said: “We meet here and talk about how to raise more wheat and more corn and more alfalfa.” So when Mr. Coburn wrote me that I had been invited to attend this meeting I realized that I could not talk about how to raise more wheat, more corn and more alfalfa; but following the old adage, “Every one to his trade,” I decided to talk about books, books, books, or, as Hamlet says, 'words, words, words,' with especial stress upon more books and more reading on the farm; more books to read on rainy days in the summer while the wheat, corn and alfalfa are growing, and more books to read during the winter evenings when the wheat, corn and alfalfa are garnered."

Watson started her presentation with a short history of the book, its origins and development into what most of us think of when we hear the word, book, followed by encouraging words on the benefits of reading, especially in rural communities and on the farm.  

Watson started her promotion of reading with two questions:
"Since the world is full of interesting books and the output is enormous, and it is a very busy world, what is a normal man to do? Before we answer that question we will ask and answer another question... Why do we care for books? Because they record the vital expression of the living thoughts of interesting and observing men and women about life." 

A thoroughly good read on why reading matters with suggestions for her audience on what might be good reading material.  

Another cool statement about the power of reading quoted by Watson during her speech:
"Thomas Starr King says: 'The distance of a star, the age of a planet, the flow of history, the stories of biography, the vast and crowded spaces of fiction, the richest music borne from the infinite deeps through the rarest pipes of genius... such knowledge, such society, such inspiration or such solace may be ours through a library of a hundred books.'” 

You can read Carrie Watson's speech at the State Library of Kansas' KGI Online Library:

Of the Making of Many Books There is no End

Interested in knowing more about Carrie Watson?  You can start by reading this short biography on the University of Kansas website:

"Madam Librarian"