Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Public Library: A photo essay by Robert Dawson

Imagine a road trip or two where you drive the US in search of libraries old and new to photograph.Mr. Dawson has spent the past 20 years or so romancing the public library.  There is no greater institution in a democracy than a library. The book is filled with photos and wonderment about the bastion of free books, ideas and knowledge.  This is a lovely book to love.  

It is sprinkled with essays by famous writers and not so famous librarians about the role of the library and the experiences of the librarian that are also worth the read.  My favorite was the cogent discussion of the library's role in the social service network.  What is a librarian to do about all those vagrants and crazy people that haunt the library?  

I loaned this to my mother who enjoyed the photos as well. She commented that when we were in elementary school back in the 70s they made a big push to call the library "the media center". At the time I didn't think anything about it, but I realize now that I didn't like that too much.  Of course, much of this book is dedicated to the erosion of public libraries in our current culture: the cuts to finding, the decay of infrastructure, the belief that the internet makes books obsolete.  Perhaps if we did call them media centers people would rush to them. Surprised perhaps that the first media--the original media--had little to do with bytes and charging stations and much to do with print and type bound between two boards.

The best part of this road trip and photo essay book was that it was a father and son road trip.  What a marvelous way to share your love with your child.  If you love libraries, go buy this.