Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Review: The Public Library

Robert Dawson, The Public Library. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-61689-217-3.

This is a beautiful book, and it is one that will likely go on my list of best reads for 2014. For librarians, especially public librarians, and for fans of libraries, this is a book that will warm the heart. The book is the result of an 18-year project. The author went around the nation documenting libraries--wealthy, poor, urban, rural, big, small, open, closed, repurposed, etc. He does present a very diverse image of libraries.

The book contains some essays by various famous writers like Dr. Seuss, Amy Tan, and Isaac Asimov. The essays were selected by the author for inclusion; they were not written for the book itself. The essays provide context and inspiration for the readers.

The main attraction of the book is the photography. Dawson's work, whether in color or black and white, is excellent. These photos make this book a pleasure to read and browse. Some of the photos leave you in awe, and others are very moving and poignant.

We learn a few things about libraries from the book, or as librarians, we are reminded of these things. Libraries unite our nation. They change and evolve, yet they remain a constant as the commons for the people. Their greatest advantage and challenge is that they let everyone in. They keep the mission of gathering information and people. They inform and educate, embodying the values of democracy and the freedom of expression.

For me, it felt very appropriate that I borrowed this book from my local public library. It is a book that I think belongs in every library, and it is one that I think as many people as possible should read. Fans of libraries and fans of books about reading and books will want to add this nice photo book to their collection.

I am giving it the full 5 out of 5 stars.

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I would like to jot down some quotes from the book that I would like to remember:

By Ann Patchett:

"So I know this-- if you love your library, use your library. Support libraries in your words and deeds. If you are fortunate enough to be able to buy your own books, and you have your own computer with which to conduct research, and you are not in search of a story hour for your children, then don't forget about the members of your community who are like you but perhaps lack your resources--the ones who love to read, who long to learn, who need a place to go and sit and think. Make sure that in your good fortune you remember to support their quest for a better life. That's what a library promises us, after all: a better life. And that's what libraries have delivered" (183).

By Chip Ward:

"We enjoy a democratic culture--not because we are like-minded, but because we realize that although we are not like-minded, we have common interests and needs that trump our disagreements" (137). 


"A library is a place where dissent is respected, tolerance is shown, and open-minded behaviors modeled" (137). 


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