See Some of America’s Most Amazing Public Libraries

1 minute read

The Library of Congress announced Monday that it had acquired a collection of nearly 700 photographs taken by Robert Dawson of public libraries across the United States. Dawson has spent about two decades traversing the nation to document the wide range of forms and functions filled by libraries. The photographer’s survey “provided the perfect opportunity for the Library of Congress to represent the public library’s role in the 21st century,” said Helena Zinkham, the Library of Congress’ director for Collections and Services, in a statement. “His photographs also offer a fascinating comparison to our interior and exterior views of libraries newly built at the start of the 20th century.”

The acquisition of the photos also comes at a crucial time for libraries in America. As TIME explained in 2013, “From 2000 to 2010, public library visits increased 32.7%, partly owing to the influx of patrons during the recession. Meanwhile, overall library funding has decreased every year since 2009. Last year, libraries in 30 states cut hours because of budget constraints.”

Read more about the new world for public libraries, here in the TIME Vault: Smoked Stacks

B.S. Ricks Library, Yazoo City, MS
B.S. Ricks Memorial Library, Yazoo City, MS 2011. Founded in 1838, this library was dedicated a Literary Landmark in recognition of Willie Morris (1934-1999), a journalist, editor, author, and renowned Mississippian.Robert Dawson—Library of Congress
The Library of Congress has acquired 681 photographs from “The Public Library: An American Commons,” a photographic survey by Robert Dawson of public libraries in the United States.  The photographs significantly expand the Library’s holdings that d
Library built by ex-slaves, Allensworth, CA.1995 The remarkable life of Allen Allensworth began as a slave in Kentucky in 1842. He later became a petty officer in the US Navy, a Baptist minister and a Chaplin in the US Army. He founded a California Colony in Tulare County that continued for several years during the early part of the 20th century. The library is a re-creation of the original in what is now called Col. Allensworth State Historic Park.Robert Dawson—Library of Congress
Library, Crested Butte, CO
Library, Crested Butte, CO.Robert Dawson—Library of Congress
Gargoyle, Woburn, MA
Gargoyle, Woburn Public Library, Woburn, MA 1994.Robert Dawson—Library of Congress
Library, Death Valley National Park CA
Library, Death Valley National Park CA.Robert Dawson—Library of Congress
Public Library and Visitors Center, Bremond, TX
Public Library and Visitors Center, Bremond, TX.Robert Dawson—Library of Congress
Athenaeum Library, St. Johnsbury, VT
Athenaeum Library, St. Johnsbury, VT 2001 . The painting is by the famous nineteenth-century German-American artist Alfred Bierstadt of Yosemite Valley in California.Robert Dawson—Library of Congress

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Lily Rothman at