Synopses & Reviews
How do you use your local library? Does it arrive at your door on the back of an elephant? Can it float down the river to you? Or does it occupy a phone booth by the side of the road?
Public libraries are a cornerstone of modern civilization, yet like the books in them, libraries face an uncertain future in an increasingly digital world. Undaunted, librarians around the globe are thinking up astonishing ways of reaching those in reading need, whether by bike in Chicago, boat in Laos, or donkey in Colombia. Improbable Libraries showcases a wide range of unforgettable, never-before-seen images and interviews with librarians who are overcoming geographic, economic, and political difficulties to bring the written word to an eager audience. Alex Johnson charts the changing face of library architecture, as temporary pop-ups rub shoulders with monumental brick-and-mortar structures, and many libraries expand their mission to function as true community centers. To take just one example: the open-air Garden Library in Tel Aviv, located in a park near the cityandrsquo;s main bus station, supports asylum seekers and migrant workers with a stock of 3,500 volumes in sixteen different languages. and#160;
Beautifully illustrated with two hundred and fifty color photographs, Improbable Libraries offers a breathtaking tour of the places that bring us together and provide education, entertainment, culture, and so much more. From the rise of the egalitarian Little Free Library movement to the growth in luxury hotel libraries, the communal book revolution means youandrsquo;ll never be far from the perfect next read.
"This beautifully crafted book celebrates public libraries across the U.S. in both color and black and white images captured by photographer Dawson over an 18-year period. Artfully arranged in such chapters as 'Civic Memory and Identity' and 'Literature and Learning,' the book includes a foreword by Bill Moyers and an afterword by Ann Patchett. Writers, including Anne Lamott, Barbara Kingsolver, and Amy Tan, share childhood experiences at their local libraries and the significance this sanctuary had on their literary development. Throughout, Dawson contrasts libraries of different sizes and locales: from those in poor, rural towns to those in bustling cities; from what used to be libraries but are now abandoned structures to architectural marvels. These buildings speak to the breadth, scope, and makeup of America, and how libraries provide culture, computers, and sometimes shelter. In addition, Dawson touches on the fragile nature of these institutions, which he feels are vital to our well-being as a nation. He challenges the notion of what a library looks like some are scarcely bigger than a one-room house or share space with the local post office. Dawson goes beyond the physical structures and touches on how viscerally and nostalgically Americans feel about public libraries, and suggests that, as a culture, we depend on them more than we know. 150 photos. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A book for anyone with a deep and abiding love of libraries. Dawson's latest project is a powerful argument for the continued relevance of our public libraries as information and community centers, even as libraries adapt to changing technological and budgetary landscapes." - Library Journal
"This collection of photographs and texts of and about libraries--grand or dead, faded or sumptuous--make up a narrative that combines the public sphere with private memory. Robert Dawson's work is an irrefutable argument for the preservation of public libraries. His book is profound and heartbreakingly beautiful." -- Toni Morrison
"Rich imagery of libraries across the national and cultural map, from cherished landmarks of the heartland to a Death Valley trailer parked in shade to lessen the heat. Add thoughtful text from the likes of Barbara Kingsolver to Amy Tan, and Dawson's subject goes beyond buildings to celebrate the civic realm." - San Francisco Chronicle
"If you think all public libraries look pretty much the same, well, you need to take a look at this book. Oh, sure, there are plenty of grand ones, such as Philadelphia's own Central Library on the Parkway. But we also have the Fishtown Community Branch, featured in this volume, which used to be a firehouse and, before that, a stable. There's also the log cabin library in Cable, Wis. And many, many more, both grand and humble." - Philadelphia Inquirer
"For book lovers, library denizens, and fans of architecture or Americana, The Public Library is a delight." - The Christian Science Monitor
"Dawson's project makes a powerful case for how public libraries serve communities in every corner of the country." - The New Yorker's Page Turner blog
andldquo;Fascinating. . . . A valuable visual culture book that doubles as a travel resource.andrdquo;and#160;
andldquo;Beautifully depicts the fun side of libraries. . . . The photos in Improbable Libraries
give a glimpse at a present, and hopefully a future, in which libraries remain at the heart of our shared literary culture.andrdquo;
andquot;Johnson, the son of librarians, is an exuberant guide.andquot;
andldquo;Improbable Librariesand#160;is definitely a labor of love for literature, and offers a global perspective on how essential access to books is in bringing communities vibrancy and education. Itandrsquo;sand#160;engagingand#160;to flip through the pages and discover unexpected projects. . . . While the DIY and individual-driven libraries Johnson highlights are inspiring, itandrsquo;s also essential that he locates them in theand#160;contemporary context of why they are needed in places underserved or ignored by institutions.andrdquo;and#160;
andldquo;Fascinating. . . . Underscores the importance of books, no matter where a reader lives.andrdquo;
andldquo;Thisandnbsp;delightful book will give bibliophiles everywhere ideas for how to exhibit their collection as well as add some destinations to their bucket list. A great option for the childrenandrsquo;s room, too.andrdquo;
A gorgeous visual celebration of America's public libraries including 150 photos, plus essays by Bill Moyers, Ann Patchett, Anne Lamott, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, and many more.
Many of us have vivid recollections of childhood visits to a public library: the unmistakable musty scent, the excitement of checking out a stack of newly discovered books. Today, the more than 17,000 libraries in America also function as de facto community centers offering free access to the internet, job-hunting assistance, or a warm place to take shelter. And yet, across the country, cities large and small are closing public libraries or curtailing their hours of operation. Over the last eighteen years, photographer Robert Dawson has crisscrossed the country documenting hundreds of these endangered institutions. The Public Library presents a wide selection of Dawson's photographs— from the majestic reading room at the New York Public Library to Allensworth, California's one-room Tulare County Free Library built by former slaves. Accompanying Dawson's revealing photographs are essays, letters, and poetry by some of America's most celebrated writers. A foreword by Bill Moyers and an afterword by Ann Patchett bookend this important survey of a treasured American institution.
About the Author
Alex Johnson is a journalist at the UK'sand#160;Independentand#160;newspaper and editorial consultant for several charities. He lives with his wife and three children in St Albans, UK. Both of his parents are librarians.
Table of Contents
1. Libraries on the Move
2. Animal Libraries
3. Tiny Libraries
4. Big Libraries
5. Home Libraries
6. Mobile Libraries
7. Not Libraries