We live in a “diverse and often fractious country,” writes Robert Dawson, but there are some things that unite us—among them, our love of libraries. “A locally governed and tax-supported system that dispenses knowledge and information for everyone throughout the country at no cost to its patrons is an astonishing thing,” the photographer writes in the introduction to his book, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay. “It is a shared commons of our ambitions, our dreams, our memories, our culture, and ourselves.”
But what do these places look like? Over the course of 18 years, Dawson found out. Inspired by “the long history of photographic survey projects,” he traveled thousands of miles and photographed hundreds of public libraries in nearly all 50 states. Looking at the photos, the conclusion is unavoidable: American libraries are as diverse as Americans. They’re large and small, old and new, urban and rural, and in poor and wealthy communities. Architecturally, they represent a range of styles, from the grand main branch of the New York Public Library to the humble trailer that serves as a library in Death Valley National Park, the hottest place on Earth. “Because they’re all locally funded, libraries reflect the communities they’re in,” Dawson said in an interview. “The diversity reflects who we are as a people.”
For three years, the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project has been studying Americans’ relationships with public libraries in the digital age. Here, we’ve boiled it all down to 39 shareable slides.
Our libraries research is broken down in three phases:
- The state of reading in America
- Library services
- Library typology
What we found from these phases of research is that relationships to libraries are part of Americans’ broader resource networks. Once libraries are a part of their networks, services are especially important to low-income households. Books, browsing, and librarians are still central to how people use libraries and what they expect from them, but technology (computers, internet) is also a common use and a high priority.
Public libraries are also used and viewed as important community spaces.
Dive into the slide deck for more facts about libraries and reading in the digital age.
7-Year-Old Zora Ball Is the World’s Youngest Game Programmer
The youngest person to create a full version of a mobile application video game. A first grader at Philadelphia’s Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School, she’s already more accomplished than everyone you know.
Ball built the app in the Bootstrap programming language, and unveiled her game at FATE’s “Bootstrap Expo” at the University of Pennsylvania.
Apparently some grumpy olds were suspicious that her older brother was really the mastermind behind the program, but Zora showed them. When asked to reconfigure the app on the spot, Ball showed naysayers what was up when she executed the request perfectly.
“We expect great things from Zora, as her older brother, Trace Ball, is a past STEM Scholar of the Year,” said Harambee Science Teacher Tariq Al-Nasir. No pressure, baby geniuses, but there’s an entire world for you to save. Please hurry.