The African American ‘Hidden Figures’ Who Desegregated the South’s Public Libraries

In Jackson, Blacks Endured Beatings and Dog Attacks to Gain Entrance, While in Birmingham They Used Sit-Ins to State Their Case

Historians of the civil rights era, between 1954 and 1968, have crafted an impressive body of literature focusing on the resolve of young black community activists who bravely resisted racial discrimination at lunch counters, on buses, and in countless other public venues throughout the Jim Crow South. But one particular site of their valor has remained largely hidden in the historical record: public libraries. Ubiquitous civic agencies that for nearly a century had justified local taxpayer support as valued educational institutions because they were “free to all,” libraries remained segregated …

How World War II Turned Soldiers Into Bookworms

American GIs Devoured Paperbacks on the Front Lines, Spawning a New Generation of Readers

In January 1942, thousands of New Yorkers gathered on the steps of the legendary New York Public Library, at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, wearing their Sunday best and warmest …

How One City’s Library Adapts to Tweens, Teens, and New Families

Santa Ana Is a Yeasty Mix of Immigrants and Trendy Urbanites

The Santa Ana Public Library is an old library. It was founded in 1891 by white, middle-class migrants from the Midwest who wanted to replicate their hometown libraries. But like …

Who Are the Homeless People in My Library?

A Fresno Librarian Made a Documentary to Get More Than a Glimpse at the Lives of Patrons She Serves Every Day

Several years ago, when I first began working as a librarian at the Central Library in downtown Fresno, I escorted a daily customer named James toward the door at closing …

L.A.’s Libraries Are Lookers

Even If You’re Not a Bibliophile, You Might Just Fall for the Mid-Century Modern Architecture, Card Catalogue Art, Stunning Murals, and Art Deco Details

by Jennifer Chen

When I was a kid, I read so voraciously my mom found it hard to keep up with my demand for new books. Her solution: Drop me off …

My Superhero’s Got a Green Card

Why I Created El Verde, a Factory Worker Who Moonlights as a Crusader

My childhood revolved around two things: television and superheroes. I always looked forward to coming home from school to watch reruns of Gilligan’s Island, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and …