The Public Library


By Robert Dawson

cover image of The Public Library

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A “beautifully crafted” visual celebration with 150 photos and essays by Barbara Kingsolver, Bill Moyers, Ann Patchett, Anne Lamott, Amy Tan, and more (Publishers Weekly).
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 eighteen years, photographer Robert Dawson crisscrossed the country documenting hundreds of these endangered institutions. The Public Library presents a wide selection of his 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 them are essays, letters, and poetry by some of America’s most celebrated writers.
“For book lovers, library denizens, and fans of architecture or Americana, The Public Library is a delight.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“If you think all public libraries look pretty much the same, well, you need to take a look at this book. Oh, sure, there are plenty of grand ones, such as Philadelphia’s own Central Library on the Parkway. But we also have the Fishtown Community Branch, featured in this volume, which used to be a firehouse and, before that, a stable. There’s also the log cabin library in Cable, Wis. And many, many more, both grand and humble.” —Philadelphia Inquirer
“An irrefutable argument for the preservation of public libraries . . . profound and heartbreakingly beautiful.” —Toni Morrison
The Public Library