Libraries Through History

We're celebrating National Library Week by highlighting a book that explores how library design has evolved over time

American libraries 1730–1950

Breisch, Kenneth. W. W. Norton, 2017
314p bibl index, 9780393731606 $75.00

Architectural historian Breisch (Univ. of Southern California) selected more than 450 images from the Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Division to illustrate the historical development of American library architecture and design. The focus of his study ends with 1950 because library architecture from that decade to the present continued to use the innovations pioneered in the preceding half of the century, when library planners highlighted visual and spatial concepts that symbolized community and democracy. The author introduces the work with a brief historical narrative, followed by chapters with images organized by library types—private, academic, and large and small public libraries. There are separate chapters on Carnegie libraries, the Library of Congress, and a few examples of contemporary design. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction followed by color, sepia, or black-and-white images of library exteriors, reading rooms, stacks, floor plans, and shelving designs. Breisch adds informative context to the selected images, and all have identifying and source information, including the reproduction number from LC’s database at Geographic coverage is quite broad, although there are no images of libraries in several western states such as Utah or Oklahoma. The quality of the book’s paper and images is very good, and the bibliography and index greatly enhance the work.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels.
D. A. Lincove, Ohio State University
Subject: Reference – Library & Information Sciences
Choice Issue: Dec 2017