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"Public Library: An American Commons"

Posted by Josh Rothman  April 18, 2011 12:30 PM

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Josh Wallaert of Design Observer showcases the photography of Robert Dawson, who has travelled to 17,000 public libraries since 1994 and assembled a show called "Public Library: An American Commons." His photographs show libraries in all their weird diversity: libraries run out of trailers or combined with post offices, and, more generally, serving as a genuine, free-of-charge common space for citizens of all stripes.


Death Valley Library. Photo by Robert Dawson, via Design Observer.

In a time of budget cuts, Wallaert writes, it's important to remember just how broadly useful libraries are:

What’s at stake here is more than access to a room full of books. The modern American public library is reading room, book lender, video rental outlet, internet café, town hall, concert venue, youth activity center, research archive, history museum, art gallery, homeless day shelter, office suite, coffeeshop, seniors’ clubhouse and romantic hideaway rolled into one.

You can track the Boston Public Library's fiscal situation on its budget blog, where there's good news: "The FY 2012 budget includes a $30.14 million appropriation for the Boston Public Library," they write -- "less than a 1% decrease from FY 2011 funding levels." You can browse the slideshow at Design Observer.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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