The Floating Library is a pop-up, mobile device-free public space aboard the historic Lilac Museum Steamship berthed at Pier 25 on the Hudson River in New York City for September 6- October 3, 2014.
There’s a secret branch of the New York Public Library in the subway.
The 51st Street 6 line subway station is home to the Terence Cardinal Cooke-Cathedral branch of the New York Public Library. Librarians at the location report that they’re usually visited by the same partons, frequent commuters who are looking for something to read during their daily train ride. Like all New York librarians, though, they’re happy to answer research questions — usually about how to work the Metrocard machine. The library is currently closed for repairs, but you can visit it when it reopens in September if you need a good book for your ride home … or need to figure out how to get home.
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.”