Library of Congress Acquires Trove of Photographs of Public Libraries

Robert Dawson, Library built by ex-slaves, Allensworth, California, 1995. Courtesy Library of Congress

Robert Dawson, Library built by ex-slaves, Allensworth, California, 1995. Courtesy Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has acquired 681 photographs from Robert Dawson’s project The Public Library: An American Commons. The project, a survey of public libraries across the United States, is an investigation into the American public library as architecture, community space, and a reflection of the contemporary social landscape.

Dawson photographed 526 libraries in 48 states between 1994 and 2015, traveling on summer road trips with his son. He photographed libraries in small towns, shopping malls, on Indian reservations, and in large cities.