October 23, 2017 New Book Highlights Architecture of U.S. Libraries

Contact: John Sayers, Library of Congress (202) 707-9216 | Nicholas Fuenzalida, W.W. Norton & Company, nfuenzalida@wwnorton.com |

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. “American Libraries 1730–1950”—a new book by Kenneth Breisch, published by W.W. Norton & Company in association with the Library of Congress—celebrates the history of library architecture in America, from classical temples to ivy-covered campus citadels to modern glass boxes.

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.

“American Libraries” is the 11th and final volume in the W.W. Norton/Library of Congress Visual Sourcebook series, which began with “Barns” in 2003. In her foreword for “American Libraries,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden declares the new book “an especially fitting high point for the Library of Congress—the nation’s library.” The Midwest Book Review calls the book “an impressively informative history of the evolution of the library in America. … [S]imply stated, no community, college or university library should be without a copy.”

Kenneth Breisch is an associate professor at the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California. The former director and founder of the USC’s Graduate Program in Heritage Conservation, he is author of “Henry Hobson Richardson and the Small Public Library in America” and “The Los Angeles Central Library: Building an Architectural Icon, 1872–1933.”

“American Libraries,” a 314-page hardcover book with more than 500 illustrations, is available for $75 in the Library of Congress Shop, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C., 20540-4985. Credit card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557 or loc.gov/shop/.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.


PR 17-145
ISSN 0731-3527