American Commons: Photographing Libraries Across the Nation is a Kickstarter project from Robert Dawson. Since 1994 he has traveled through nineteen states and photographed hundreds of libraries and he is trying to raise money to complete the project.
As a photographer I have committed my life work to investigating “the commons” – the things that we share as a nation – our environment, our infrastructure, our culture – the things that keep our society civil and working. For communities across the country, libraries offer free access to information and education, a sanctuary, and hope for the future.
Libraries are local but I chose to view this astonishing system as a whole. While each library has its own unique set of needs the nation-wide system of local libraries constitutes an important part of a healthy society. In the nineteenth century there was a strong correlation between the public library movement and the movement for public education. People understood that the future of democracy is contingent on an educated citizenry. They also felt that every citizen should have the right of free access to community-owned resources. These ideas coalesced into today’s public libraries which function as a system of non-commercial centers that help us define what we value and what we share. …
After 17 years of research, the time for me to finish this project is now. Libraries are under attack today. During the Great Depression, not a single library was closed. Now, as wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of fewer people, what is left for the rest of us? No matter our political persuasions or cultural differences, libraries connect us all. This is our American Commons. Help keep it that way.
You can follow Robert’s journey in more detail on the project’s blog, Library Road Trip.