Public libraries big and small, old and new have played a hugely important role in society – they are a reflection of the community they seek to serve, they act as a meeting place, a place to share thoughts and ideas, and as a hub for book lovers. In the entire history of public libraries no one has forced a library into existence; it grows from a natural desire within the community and is then sustained by the community to better serve the unique characteristics and demands within the community.
Public libraries are not a new idea – many can date back to the Roman era, then to the British Empire, and Benjamin Franklin’s establishing the Library Company of Philadelphia – but in the mid-19th century a push was made to increase the number of these libraries and make them truly public (paid for by taxes and run by the state or a board of directors).
I was blessed to grow up in a family where books were treasured, my mother read to my brothers and I, and our weekly trips to the library were a family affair. I knew where the 3 closest public libraries where, which one had the best selection of books, which one had the cool second floor, and which one my mom would take us to after grocery shopping. I love public libraries, I grew-up surrounded by them and deeply submerged in the culture – there is a certain kind of magic in that which is worth fighting to preserve.
I recently saw some picture Robert Dawson (a California-based photographer) took for his book The Public Library: A Photographic Essay and was reminded of of integral libraries are to healthy communities and I wanted to share some of the images of libraries all over America that he took.