The public library is a refuge for many. For those that love to read, it is filled with books that are ready for exploring. I think most of the people reading this blog are of the book-loving kind and can relate to the magic of a good library.
But the public library is in danger. The oldest public library in the country, located in Delaware County, is in danger of closing.
And, sadly, this is not the only public library whose funds have been cut and may see themselves closing down. The Huffington Post has an entire page set aside to advocate for the continuation and funding of public libraries.
The public library is an important part of any community. While we book lovers see it as a place of adventure and fun, it is also a place of learning. Before there was the internet and Google’s famous search algorithm, libraries were the storehouses of knowledge on how to get things done. Libraries contain books that not only teach, but inform in the way of history books and old catalogs of newspapers. Microfilm is something many of my generation may not be familiar with, but they still serve an important function of keeping a record of the past.
Beyond the books stored within the public library, the learning opportunities it provides for the public, and the history kept safe there, the public library is a public space (hence public being in its name). In a world of increasing privatization, places where the poor, huddled masses can go to escape the heat, cold, or find shelter from a storm without forking over some cash are quickly dwindling.
In the midst of all of these libraries shutting down and being made unavailable to the public, Robert Dawson went across the nation and put together The Public Library: A Photographic Essay. What Dawson is doing is important. He’s not only capturing the beauty and squalor that surrounds the nation’s public libraries (or what is left of them), but he’s putting our nation’s values on display and challenging us to ask ourselves if we agree with how libraries are being treated. If we don’t, it’s up to us to act and write our representatives, urging them to preserve and fund our public libraries.
Below are just a few images from his book for you to preview and enjoy. If you like or dislike what you see, don’t hesitate to take action.