Bookworks Presents Todays Shelf Awareness for Readers

Bookworks Presents Todays Shelf Awareness for Readers

When I was quite young, my great-aunt and I walked to our tiny library every week, first stopping at the corner store to buy bananas. After we had picked out our books, we'd sit on the front steps, eat a banana, and consider what we had chosen. (A rosy memory, since weather in western Washington precludes most step-sitting occasions.) Later, a bookmobile came around; I recall the thrill of stepping up into a world of wonders. Later still, our little town got a larger library, attached to the fire station. I raced through the books to the extent that Mrs. Dawes, the librarian, called my mother to ask if I could check out adult books. I wanted then to be a librarian--specifically, a bookmobile librarian--and have never lost my love for libraries.

Robert Dawson also loves libraries and has spent 18 years photographing them. His photos and commentary have been combined with short pieces by Anne Lamott, Ann Patchett, Philip Levine and others to create The Public Library: A Photographic Essay(Princeton Architectural Press). The derelict Mark Twain branch library in Detroit, the ornate Milwaukee Central library, the architectural wonder of Seattle's Rem Koolhaas/Joshua Ramus-designed building, a California library built by ex-slaves, a Nevada bookmobile--Dawson's images run the gamut from abandoned libraries to grand edifices with gargoyles. They have grand hallways or single rooms, maybe coffee shops and post offices, and always people reading, learning, even borrowing tools.

As Bill Moyers points out in his foreword, libraries are not just bastions of book collections--they are gathering places, and sometimes literal ports in storms. Dawson says, "Public libraries help us define what we value and what we share... [they] are among the last free spaces we have left. Public libraries are worth fighting for, and this book is my way of fighting." April 13-19 is National Library Week--use your library and fight the good fight. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

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