American Public Libraries: A Visual History

Public libraries remain our country’s greatest democratic institutions, but it took generations of work and social progress to get them to their current place as beacons to their communities. CityLab presents a visual exploration of how a critical piece of social infrastructure came to be, illustrated by Ariel Aberg-Riger. The striking images chart the institution’s growth from being spaces “accessed almost exclusively by wealthy white men” to “one of the last free spaces in our country that openly cater to the needs of toddlers, teens, old people, new parents, students, and the homeless.”

Image credit: CityLab

“A Novel” Reminder

Stroll through the fiction section of a bookstore or library, and you’ll notice the phrase on countless spines: “A Novel.” Is this really necessary information when you’re in the fiction section? “As the genre became more and more experimental, publishers put ‘A Novel’ on book covers to reassure people that they were approaching something familiar,” writes Eliza Brooke in Vox. It turns out that many people still need the reminder.

Image credit: Bauman Rare Books

An Earthquake-Proof Library

Japanese architect Shinsuke Fujii has designed a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that’s meant to withstand the shocks of an earthquake. The bookcase is integral to the structural stability of the building, and its shelves even act as a ladder to reach high shelves. Perhaps Jorge Luis Borges was right, and paradise is indeed “a kind of library” – so why not make it earthquake-proof?

Glory Edim’s Empire of Knowledge

The founder of Well-Read Black Girl, Glory Edim, spoke to HuffPost’s “We Built This” series on her passion for literacy and the urgency of protecting black women: “There’s a vastness to blackness that needs to be recognized, especially in media, especially in literature, in film. […] We need more artists who are willing to share their imaginations with us and see blackness in a more beautiful and profound way.” Our own Martha Anne Toll recently spoke to Edim as well about the recent Well-Read Black Girl anthology.

Isabelle Eberhardt, Dependent on Chance

“A subject to which intellectuals never give a thought,” wrote Isabelle Eberhardt in a notebook, “is the right to be a vagrant, the freedom to wander. Yet vagrancy is deliverance, and life on the open road is the essence of freedom.” The Paris Review’s excellent column, “Feminize Your Canon,” returns with Eberhardt, a cross-dressing Swiss explorer and author who published under a male pseudonym as a teenager. Learn about her uncompromising life filled with intrigue, adventure, and passion.