The Public Library: A Photographic Essay
By: Robert Dawson
Pages: 192 (Coffee Table Book)
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
A gorgeous visual celebration of America's public libraries including 150 photos, plus essays by Bill Moyers, Ann Patchett, Anne Lamott, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, and many more.
Many of us have vivid recollections of childhood visits to a public library: the unmistakable musty scent, the excitement of checking out a stack of newly discovered books. Today, the more than 17,000 libraries in America also function as de facto community centers offering free access to the internet, job-hunting assistance, or a warm place to take shelter. And yet, across the country, cities large and small are closing public libraries or curtailing their hours of operation. Over the last eighteen years, photographer Robert Dawson has crisscrossed the country documenting hundreds of these endangered institutions. The Public Library presents a wide selection of Dawson's photographs— from the majestic reading room at the New York Public Library to Allensworth, California's one-room Tulare County Free Library built by former slaves. Accompanying Dawson's revealing photographs are essays, letters, and poetry by some of America's most celebrated writers. A foreword by Bill Moyers and an afterword by Ann Patchett bookend this important survey of a treasured American institution.
When I was 7 I lived in a very small town, with a very small public library. My first real memory of doing anything on my own is of me walking 8 blocks to the little-white-house-turned-library on sweltering hot days and sitting quietly while reading everything I could.
I promised myself when I grew up and got a home of my own, my kids would live close enough to the library – no matter what town I lived in at that time – so they too could have the same amazing memories.
Today, 29 years later, if you hang a left at the end of my driveway and walk 5 blocks then hang another left at the Catholic school and continue on for 2 more blocks you will find my local library. It's a special kind of magic to be able to walk there with my kids, who are still slightly too young to go on their own. Wagon in tow like a group of Matilda wannabes, off to gather the books and music we will bring home for the week.
THE PUBLIC LIBRARY: A Photographic Essay is amazingly beautiful, I wish I had been apart of the kick starter that allowed Robert Dawson and his son to travel more than 11,00 miles, 26 states photographing 189 libraries. I wish I could say I was apart of that. More than anything I just wish I could have went with them.
Like Robert Dawson, I agree that public libraries are a beacon of hope, I can't begin to tell you how much you need this coffee table book with foreword by Bill Moyers, afterword by Ann Patchett and with reflections by Dr. Seuss, E. B. White, Isaac Asimov and more!
Among it's pages you'll find delapatated and forgotten by everyone but time libraries, libraries in strip malls, old fast food buildings and libraries grand and dressed in glass and filigree. From the old to the modern and everything in between – this book belongs in your home or office and while you're at it grab a copy for a friend too!