Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Visual Tour Of America's Most Fascinating Public Libraries: Robert Dawson

A Visual Tour Of America's Most Fascinating Public Libraries
Fastcoexist: 4.08.2014

Photographer Robert Dawson has been on an 18-year journey, photographing America's most beloved public institution: The library. Here are some of his images.

In 1994, photographer Robert Dawson began an odds-and-ends project. Whenever he traveled, he'd take pictures of public libraries. Then, a handful of years ago, he started taking trips across the United States just for the libraries--like the shed that served a one-person county in Nebraska, or the Texas library that housed a "petroleum room" with all sorts of George Bush-themed collectibles. He documented everything from a library found in a suburban strip mall to the the air-conditioned institution that functioned more like a refugee camp in sweltering Detroit July.

All told, Dawson journeyed through 38 states, fascinated and inspired by the common role libraries played in society. Libraries, he found, didn't only serve as a refuge for the poor who didn't have any place else to go, but gateways that opened up all corners of the world to anyone inquisitive enough to take a stroll among the shelves.

"People have various opinions about the government," he says. "But even if they didn't like the government, they did like their public library."

To Dawson, public libraries negotiate the outside world's vast disparities in income and access to opportunity. His recently published book, Public Library: An American Commons, which compiles hundreds of images of libraries across the country, also includes essays from writers who feel similarly; Dr. Seuss, Bill Moyers, Ann Patchett, and Charles Simic are just a few.  READ MORE !

Founder and co-director of the Water in the West Project

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