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New Book Highlights Architecture of U.S. Libraries

New Book Highlights Architecture of U.S. Libraries
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The book "American Libraries", written by the historian of architecture Kenneth Breisch, was published.


Technology continues to reshape our ideas about what a library can be, yet library architecture is still framed around the physical dimensions of books and the furniture and spaces designed to store and display them. The new book American Libraries, written by architectural historian Kenneth Breisch, takes you on a tour of the interior spaces as well as the public facades of libraries throughout the United States from 1730 to 1950.

With more than 500 images from the Library’s expansive visual collections, American Libraries illustrates the history and diversity of libraries in the United States from their earliest origins in the private collections of wealthy merchants and landowners through the scholarly and civic institutions that proliferated in the 19th and 20th centuries. The book includes chapters on academic and public libraries, the Library of Congress and Andrew Carnegie’s expansive library-building program that benefited more than 1,600 libraries in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Through text, plans, photographs and drawings, Breisch charts for the first time the evolution of the design and planning of these institutions. This survey offers a fascinating look at the way books have been collected, displayed and disseminated though more than 200 years of American history.

Let’s look through it pages together.

The Library Company of Philadelphia represents the world of private libraries featured in the first chapter.

Designed in 1876 by Addison Hutton, multistory iron stacks house the books. Photograph by Jack Boucher, 1962.

Fireplace and mantelpiece in the Library Company of Philadelphia (southeast room, second floor). Photograph by Jack Boucher, 1962.

The functional requirements of a public library are clearly delineated in their floor plans: a gracious or inspiring entry area, a space to serve children, a classroom for teaching and study, a reference and reading area and the book stacks.

A panoramic view featuring the Low Memorial Library at Columbia University confirms the centrality of a library on a college campus. The academic libraries chapter describes various plans and styles. Photograph by Haines Photo Co., 1909.

The chapter on government libraries features the Library of Congress, from its origins in the United States Capitol to the three buildings that comprise the national library today on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, 2007.

Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, 2011.

Public libraries are so numerous in the United States that they fill the final three chapters of the book.

Tower of the Central Library in Los Angeles. Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, 2013.

Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, ca. 1900–05

No book on library architecture would be complete without a close look at the Carnegie era of the early 1900s. Andrew Carnegie and his foundation endowed more than 1,600 library buildings in almost every state and territory of the United States. Lighting fixtures might seem to be the focus for the photograph below. But the real joy for a public library is tables crowded with children of many ages, ready to read.

From: Library of Congress Blog

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