Notes from Robert Dawson’s phototalk on public libraries

Robert Dawson has been photographing public libraries for the past eighteen years, capturing images in 48 states (excluding Alabama and Hawaii). He went through a slide show for half an hour before sitting in conversation with Luis Herrera, librarian at SFPL.
* 17,000 public libraries in the US, ~550 are in his book
* Peterborough, NH library was the first public library.
* Early libraries included collections of paintings and other art
* Library in Derby Line is half in US, half in Quebec
* Carnegie libraries: Dawson said we have 5 in the Bay Area but I see a whole lot more in the list; Carnegie spent ~70% of his fortune on libraries. They had swimming pool, basketball court, indoor track, and books. For his donation to SF of $750k, half was spent on the main library (now Asian Art musuem), the rest on branches (Chinatown, Mission, Golden Gate, Sunset, Richmond, Noe Valley, Presido)
* Seattle’s library has too many nooks and crannies for patrons to hide in at the end of the day
* Salt Lake City & Philadelphia have gorgeous libraries (his list of top 3: NYC, Seattle, SLC)
* San Rafael, CA has a Frank Lloyd Wright designed library
* Yosemite library only (?) library in a national park
* Kansas City has a library in an old bank, they show movies in the vault
* Henderson, NV has a library in the shopping mall, confusing patrons who tried to buy the books, so they had to offer some for sale.
* The busy busy Berkeley tool library offers check-out of tools
* Hurricane Katrina wiped out 50% of books, 90% of library staff
* Most unusual library in his opinion that of Elsie Eiler, mayor of a one-woman town
* Other trends: libraries closing when we need it most (Great Recession), spike in computer use