Spencer G. Shaw advocated library service for children throughout his life and inspired family members and students to pursue their passions.

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Spencer G. Shaw didn’t care that men never became librarians. He loved reading, and he knew working in a library was his calling by the time he reached high school.

As a teenager, he told the school counselor his dreams of going to college, and the counselor laughed. “He said, ‘You’ll never make it through college. You’d better take a manual-arts class,’ ” Mr. Shaw’s brother, John Shaw, said Tuesday from his home in Bloomfield, Conn. “He didn’t think black students could make it through college.”

Mr. Shaw’s parents marched up to the school and gave the counselor a piece of their mind, John Shaw recalled, and Spencer Shaw would go on to earn three degrees — from Hampton University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Chicago — and an honorary doctorate from the University of Wisconsin. Mr. Shaw would become a nationally recognized advocate for children’s reading, an internationally known lecturer and storyteller, and a 17-year professor of information at the University of Washington.

Mr. Shaw, who retired from the UW in 1986 and moved to Connecticut, died June 16 at the John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, Conn. He was 93.

Mr. Shaw’s contributions prompted the university to host a lecture series in his name that continues today. Over the years, lecturers for the Spencer G. Shaw Honor Lecture Series have included a long list of well-known children’s book authors and illustrators, including Tom Feelings and Maurice Sendak.

A Connecticut native who always loved reading, writing and music from all different cultures, Mr. Shaw grew up with five siblings and strict parents who encouraged all their children to go to college.

“They had us read 45 minutes to an hour every day, and if we didn’t understand what we were reading, they would explain it to us,” Mr. Shaw’s younger sister, Lucretia Jackson, said Tuesday from her home in Baltimore, Md. “If we came across a word we didn’t know, we had to look it up in the dictionary, write down the definition and use it in a sentence.”

Mr. Shaw hardly needed the discipline his parents enforced at home. From the start, he loved learning about everything, and he acted as a mentor to his younger siblings, encouraging the same passions in them. He asked them questions, helped them with difficult homework and always provided advice when asked for it.

His siblings say he inspired them to pursue their dream careers: John Shaw said he went on to teach for 25 years and continued to tutor even after retirement, and Jackson said she became the first African American to work at the circulation desk at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, following in her older brother’s footsteps. Jackson also said Mr. Shaw inspired her to return to school for literature and political-science classes and to keep playing the piano, a favorite pastime of his.

“I was on the phone with him last Wednesday and he said, ‘You’re 80 years old; you don’t want to bog yourself down,'” Jackson said. “And I said, ‘You’ve got nerve telling me that! You’re 93 years old and look what you’re doing!’ “

Mr. Shaw wrote numerous articles published in books and journals, lectured at colleges and universities all over the world and even narrated the 1981 film “Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky,” an African folktale for children. On a UW website dedicated to him, www.spencergshaw.org, friends, colleagues and students called him an unparalleled mentor, an excellent storyteller, and a quiet and humorous person.

“Spencer personified quality — he was a classy guy,” wrote Mark Eisenberg, professor and dean emeritus of the Information School at the UW. “When we (Eisenberg and his wife, Carol) think of Spencer, we think of that special twinkle in his eyes, his ever-present, but slightly crooked smile, and his meticulous personal and professional nature.”

Mr. Shaw is survived by his brother John Shaw, his sisters Lucille Laury and Lucretia Jackson, and several nieces and nephews.

Services for Mr. Shaw will be held on June 24 at noon at Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Conn. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Mr. Shaw should be made to the Spencer G. Shaw Lecture Series, c/o the UW Foundation, Box 359505, Seattle, WA 98195.

Jill Kimball: 206-464-2136 or jkimball@seattletimes.com