Mini New England Library Road Trip

8/12/11 – I decided to spend two days photographing some of the important libraries of New England. I have been photographing New England libraries since I began the project in 1994. This part of the country is where the idea of public libraries began and there is a rich heritage of significant libraries still here today. Also, it is rare when I have my 4X5 camera here so it made sense to do a mini New England library road trip. Most of these libraries are old and built by private benefactors. The Field Memorial Library in Conway, MA is a case in point. Built by funds from Marshall Field, the famous department store owner, it is both a monument to his civic-minded generosity and perhaps a monument to himself. This was one of several libraries I found that were stunningly beautiful and surprisingly out of scale for the small New England towns in which they were located. The Forbes Library is located in Northampton, MA and is also home to Smith College. Opened in 1894 this library is one of the only public libraries in the nation that is also home to a Presidential Library.  It houses the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum. The librarians here were wonderful and gave me free access to every part of the magnificent library. I had hoped to travel down to photograph the library in Branford, CT and several other libraries along the coast of Connecticut. However, the drive had been long and I had many miles to go before I stopped. I drove just across the border into Enfield, CT. I went to the Pearl branch library that was built by Carnegie. It had a wonderful reading sculpture of kids inside. As I was lying on my back trying to shoot it from below a nearby library patron launched into a long spiel on why Christ was the only way. I apologized that I couldn’t engage him in conversation because I was too busy taking pictures. I got out of there as soon as I took the last photo. From there it was a long drive to Worchester, MA. I was listening to public radio the whole way. Downtown Worchester was surprisingly sketchy. I took my view camera and tripod over to the library and got the overwhelming sense that I should not be there alone, under the dark cloth. Memories of being socked in the jaw in Braddock, PA came back and I beat a hasty retreat back to my car. After another long drive I arrived in Providence, RI. The sun was setting and I quickly set up my camera and photographed the beautiful back of the Main Library. I could hear a loud protest coming from the other street that got louder as I walked around to the unused front of the library. As I set up my camera to photograph the beautiful stairway a group of striking Verison workers came over. They thought I was the Press and desperately wanted to tell me their story. They explained that they were striking over job insecurity with many of their jobs being shipped overseas. I had heard about this strike before and the situation sounded pretty bad. I didn’t know who to believe but my sympathies naturally went out to these workers dealing with corporate America.

8/13/11 – After spending the night in Providence in a high-rise corporate American hotel and having my coffee in a corporate American Starbucks I headed to America’s first lending library in the small town of Franklin, MA. In 1778 the town changed its name to honor Benjamin Franklin. When he was asked to donate a bell to the town he responded by giving a collection of books saying that “sense was preferable to sound”. The original Franklin collection is still housed in a bookcase in the library. The current Ray Memorial Building was built in 1904 based on the design of a Greek temple. It was almost closed in 2003 due to budget cuts but survives as a stunningly beautiful library.  Finally, I headed to the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, MA. It is also a beautiful library that had a sign saying that it was “closed on weekends in July and August”. I looked inside and vowed that I would return to what appeared to be one of the most beautiful library interiors I had

seen on the trip. The outside wasn’t too shabby either and I photographed there for an hour and a half. Three hours later I was back at the Farm in Vermont for another great family gathering and dinner.


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5 responses to “Mini New England Library Road Trip

  1. super website carry on.

  2. Colleen

    Hello- I have been enjoying the pictures you have on this site and the other, and am looking forward to the book. I was at the Pearl Street Library when you stopped by- I am very sorry about that patron, I was not aware that he was approaching people, and am sorry that you felt compelled to leave.

    I think it is great that you are doing this, and can just imagine what an international tour would be like! If nothing else, it’s a great excuse to see the world 🙂 Good luck.

  3. Heather

    So glad you went to Forbes Library!
    I loved reading all of your blogs- I know how long it takes to write them, but it was worth it. I could really imagine your trip through your writing. You had a summer you and Walker will remember forever, and I bet the book will be great. Can’t wait to see it! Look forward to more updates on that process as well.

  4. Lori Maslow

    Wow, this is great. There’s a library in northern Vermont in Derby Line called the Haskell Free Library where the border between the United States and Canada passes right through the library and the border line is on the floor! We visited this library on one of our family road-trips with the kids several years ago and you can take your picture while one foot is in the US and the other is in Canada right inside the library! And, the Canadian side of the library has books in French! Well worth the trip up north to see it.

  5. Jenna

    Hi where is the Providence Library?

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