The End of the Library Road Trip

8/16/11 – The final leg of the library road trip started in the rain at the Farm in Vermont. We were finishing this epic journey by photographing four libraries in New England. We were also driving Walker down to New York City to begin his junior year in college. Just as we arrived in Laconia, NH the rain stopped. I photographed the amazing Gale Memorial Library there. It had a great display on local summer stock theater as well as striking architecture. I had feared that the rain would return and stop my photography of the fascinating exterior. Fortunately, it really was stopped for the rest of the day. Ellen had spent her childhood summers in this area and we visited several places that brought back strong memories for her along the way. The Samuel A. Wentworth Library at Center Sandwich, NH was a delight. We didn’t think that we would have time to photograph it and it turned out to be an eccentric surprise in this remote part of New Hampshire. We continued east past the Presidential Range Mountains and thickly wooded forests into Maine. We stayed with our wonderful friend Jacqui Koopman who lives near Portland, ME. We had so many stories from this trip that we stayed up to the wee hours telling only a few of them.

8/17/11 – I photographed only one library in Maine but it was a good one. After I explained my project to the friendly librarian in Gardiner she said that I should do a whole project just on Maine libraries. It dawned on me that I probably should do a more in-depth study of libraries in all fifty states. It is just time and money. With enough of each I could do it. The library in Gardiner kept me busy for over an hour and a half but eventually I pulled myself away. We drove for many hours to my last library of the summer. The Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell, MA was a great one to end the library road trip. I had always wanted to photograph here because this was the home town of writer Jack Kerouac. Apparently, he skipped a lot of school to spend time among the stacks of this library. Local legend has it that he was also found passed out in the stacks later in his life. This Civil War memorial library was filled with huge murals of Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox and General Grant in the battlefield. The library also contained a huge Chinese Vase and stunning interior architecture. While Walker and Ellen checked their iPhones in the library I went outside to finish with a few shots of the incredible exterior in the late afternoon light. Lowell is known for its closed 19th century cotton mills and its large Cambodian-American  and African-American population. The streets were teeming with people as the warm evening approached. I began to attract some attention on the street so I texted Walker to come out and watch my back. I took the last photos and we drove on to stay with Ellen’s sister near Boston. The following day we drove to Walker’s new apartment in Brooklyn. We had dinner that night at a Uighur restaurant in Brighton Beach after driving through an awesome thunder and lighting storm. Our final night on the East Coast was spent enjoying my birthday dinner with our dear friends Stanley and Lynn. At the same time we watched another torrential downpour outside. This last post was written as Ellen and I were flying back to San Francisco while Walker moves in to his new place in Bushwick. This trip has produced many great experiences and, I hope, great photographs of public libraries across the country. I photographed 189 libraries in 26 states and the District of Columbia. We were on the road for 58 days while driving 11,123 miles. Our Kickstarter funding campaign on the web succeeded in raising more than our $8,000 goal from friends and strangers alike. I am very excited about going home to develop all of my film. In the next few weeks I will begin to see what were the results of this extraordinary trip. I will post the greatest hits from the summer over the next few months. Thank you for reading my blog and for your interest in my project. I hope you enjoyed this wild ride as much as we did. Please stay in touch. I will keep you posted as I develop the next big phase of this project which will be the book. Stay tuned.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The End of the Library Road Trip

  1. anonymousman... but real in real life

    Hi Bob
    What a great project, that’s why I ponied up on Kickstarter, looking forward to getting my print… Please don’t let this blog go dormant until a book is in the works — maybe you could post now and again to show some rough working scans as you process film?
    Congrats on your vision and perseverance…

    hey, btw, are you familiar with a project from the late 70’s where US Courthouses were documented? Not by a lone photog, though…

    take care

  2. I’ve been enjoying your series, and the last was really good with super photos of the Lowell Library (my city, but I rarely go there, I’m always at a Boston genealogy library). However, I wanted to state that Lowell’s population is 68.60% White (U.S. Average: 75.1%)
    16.52% Asian American (U.S. Average: 4.6%)
    Hispanic or Latino of any race were 16.0% of the population. (U.S. Average: 12.5%) and a very small,
    4.21% African American (U.S. Average: 12.9%). I’m sorry you were concerned.

  3. Can’t imagine how you wouldn’t have heard about it, but I hope you saw the little library in Inverness. A drive that would be worth it in and of itself even if you’ve done it dozens of times.

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