Since 1994, California-based photographer Robert Dawson has been travelling across the country, capturing images of public libraries—those hallowed, endangered urban oases of learning and contemplation. The result of his eighteen-year pilgrimage have now been collected into a handsome tome, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay, which is simultaneously a visual record of America’s libraries, an examination of the manifold functions such institutions perform, and an impassioned lamentation over their steady decline from public consciousness. In the book’s foreword, veteran journalist Bill Moyers writes, “when a library is open, no matter its size or shape, democracy is open, too.” Dawson, in effect, presents a poignant argument for what’s at stake. He’ll be in conversation with Diane Cardwell, business reporter for The New YorkTimes.