Monthly Archives: June 2011

El Paso, Texas

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New Mexico – Green or Red?

6/26/11 – Leaving Gallup, NM was leaving the most Native American city of its size in the US. We traveled back in time when we drove into Laguna Pueblo on Sunday morning looking for a library. We didn’t find the library but we did discover a 17th Century Spanish colonial church that was just getting ready for service. We were in awe of the blend of architectural styles and cultures as I bought a cupcake from a Native woman at a church bake sale. This is a culturally rich and diverse part of this experiment we call America. Albuquerque is the economic capitol of New Mexico. It also has the wonderful Ernie Pyle Branch Library. It is a 1940’s suburban home that the famous WWII correspondent lived in before he was killed in the war. Later, when we went to photograph libraries in the Pueblos northwest of Albuquerque we discovered their policy of no photography. After turning back from Jemez Pueblo we photographed an immense cloud of smoke coming from the mountains near Los Alamos. We had hoped to drive there but the long line of traffic going the other way told us the road was closed by the fire. As we entered Santa Fe the light became surreal and the sky turned red. We had dinner with our old, dear friend Jerry West and then spent two nights in his hand-built little house on the prairie.

6/27/11 – Our eyes were scratchy and our lungs ached as we drove through the smoke to two tiny New Mexican towns. Abiquiu, once the home of artist Georgia O’Keefe is now a quiet artist community with a beautiful old church facing the serene Abiquiu public library. In front of the small, Hispanic El Rito library we met an older Hispanic woman named Veronica standing alone in the hot sun under a black umbrella. She said she was going to star in a film being made about El Rito. She wanted to bring back the one store the town had lost and save the library from a similar fate. The sign in front of the library read “Leer Es Poder” (Reading Is Power). We then headed up into the smokey Sangre de Cristo mountains to tiny, old Spanish frontier villages perched on the edge of cliffs or in green, high mountain valleys. These are remnants of a 400 year-old Hispanic culture that still exists today. The library that we found earlier on Google in Trucas was no longer there and the town seemed barely alive. The area reminded me of Chichicastanango in Guatemala and it reminded Walker of Darjelling in India. Walker did his first mountain driving on some pretty hairy roads as we continued on to Taos. The Pueblo there is a World Heritage Site and it deserves the honor. The library in Taos is a large adobe that is beautiful inside and out. After filling up at the adobe Chevron I photographed our last library of the day in the remote Embudo Valley.

6/28/11 – I photographed our first Carnegie library an hour northeast of Santa Fe in Las Vegas, NM. The town is a blend of Anglo and Hispanic cultures but the library was pure Monticello. Back in Santa Fe I photographed the WPA-built Main Library which had a beautiful Reading Room. The library was packed. Walker is becoming an expert driver. As he drives I use my smart phone to find directions, make calls and check the internet. I did all that as we drove through a sand storm which started in Albuquerque and lasted most of the way south to Socorro. The library there has a beautiful southwest theme. Lonely Planet is our guide for places to stay. They highly recommended the Blackstone Spa and Inn in the very odd town of Truth or Consequences. The Inn was great and we stayed in the appropriately themed room called “The Twilight Zone”. We discovered the one thing everyone asks in New Mexico is whether you want your chili sauce to be green or red.

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The Reality of Changing 4X5 film on the Road

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Arizona and New Mexico

2 pictures from the first 3 states

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It’s hot out here!

Welcome to you all following our epic, cross-country library road trip. Walker drove all day yesterday from San Francisco to Needles, CA. We made it there around 8:3o last night when it was 105 degrees! The most interesting thing was when I was checking into our motel a guy was checking out saying he was going to work. Makes sense when it’s that hot out.

Walker drove again today. Stopped in Flagstaff, AZ and he was amazed by the great college and good coffee. The first library that I photographed was in Winslow, AZ. The librarian went to UC Berkeley and when she read my business card she emphasized Leland Stanford JUNIOR University. It’s a Berkeley thing. I picked up Walker standing on a corner in Winslow, AZ and we drove on to the Navajo Nation. We got off Highway 40 and stopped for some Navajo fry bread. We saw lots of dogs, sheep, horses, cattle strolling by the highway.  We drove through an amazingly beautiful landscape to Window Rock, AZ, capitol of the the Navajo Nation. I photographed my second library there. Finally, we arrived in Gallup, NM, a very indigenous town. I photographed a beautiful mural on their library at sunset and then had dinner at Earls, a Gallup landmark.

We’re tried and going to sleep. More later.

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Kicking off on Kickstarter!

I’m happy to announce that fundraising for the Library Road Trip: An American Commons has begun.

Please watch my Kickstarter video, learn about the urgency of this project, and donate — a pledge in any amount, even just $20, will help me finish my survey of American public libraries before they disappear.

To support us, click here. Thanks.

We should be somewhere east of California by the time you read this. See you on the road!


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Previous Field Work (1994-2011)

Library, Yosemite National Park, CA (2008) - The Yosemite Valley Branch Library is part of the Mariposa County Library system. It has two public internet stations and is housed in the Girls Club building near Yosemite Village.

Library, Mendota, CA (2004) - A new library replaced this San Joaquin Valley library in 2005.

Librarians, Tool Lending Library, Berkeley, CA (2011) - This Tool Lending Library is part of the regular Berkeley, CA, library system. It is an extremely popular branch library.

Katrina damaged library, New Orleans, LA (2008) - When the levees broke, all of New Orleans’ thirteen public libraries were damaged, eight so badly they could not be reopened. More than 300,000 books, CDs, and other items were destroyed—nearly half the collection. With the devastation of the city and the crippling of city government, NOPL was forced to lay off 90 percent of its employees. All libraries were closed for over two months. The 19 remaining staff members, when they were able to re-enter the city, began surveying damage and salvaging assets. The devastation was an opportunity to rebuild a better library system.

Interior, Woburn, MA (1994) - After a large bequest by Charles Winn to the town of Woburn in 1876, the famed American architect Henry Hobson Richardson was selected to design his first library. The Woburn Public Library is now a National Historic Landmark.

Heartland Four Corners, VT (1994) - The library was assembled from two office rooms from a local sawmill in 1944. It had no heat except a wood-burning stove. At the time I made this photograph it had just been closed and its entire collection of 70 boxes of books had just been sold to a local used-book dealer for $125.

Childrens library entrance, Los Angeles, CA (2008) - The Globe Chandelier is part of a model of the solar system. A translucent blue-glass globe with hand-painted continents hangs in the middle. Planets and a crescent moon can be found in the chains that suspend the globe and the sunburst on the ceiling directly above the globe mirrors the sunburst on the pyramid top of the Library outside. Signs of the zodiac ring the globe along with 48 lights around the rim, which represent the 48 United States in 1926 when the building opened.

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.

Ceiling, Main Reading room, New York, NY (2008) - Often referred to as the “main branch”, the Beaux-Arts landmark building was initially formed from the consolidation of the Astor and Lenox Libraries, and has evolved into one of the world’s preeminent public resources for the study of human thought, action, and experience. It houses some 15 million items including priceless medieval manuscripts, ancient Japanese scrolls, contemporary novels and poetry, as well as baseball cards, dime novels, and comic books. More than 1,200 languages and dialects, ancient and modern, are represented in the collections.

Library, Death Valley National Park, CA (2009) - This remote library in a trailer is the only library for hundreds of miles. The roof is shaded to lessen the intense summer heat of one of the hottest places in the world.

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More examples of earlier work, 1994 – 2011


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