Keys To The Whole World: American Public LibrariesThis summer, NPR explores our nation's public library system, investigating questions about funding, architecture, media consumption, copyright, and of course, community.
Rachel Reynolds Luster became the Myrtle, Mo., librarian four months ago. The town rests in the rural Ozarks, about 5 miles north of the Arkansas state line. The nearest major bookstore is two hours away.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C., has opened a Digital Commons that features rows of desktop computers, portable electronic devices and even a 3D printer.
DC Public Library/The Freelon Group
The San Francisco Public Library has been digitizing its historical document collections for years, including the scrapbooks of famed homicide detective Theodore Kytka. The SFPL is among scores of libraries and archives adding their digital collections to the DPLA.
Via San Francisco Public Library
At a Human Library event at the Santa Monica Public Library, a police detective "book" talks to two "readers." Human Library events and projects, which are held at libraries across the country, allow participants to "check out" volunteers and have conversations about their life experiences.
Annie Wyndham Solomon (Wynsolo Photography)/Santa Monica Public Library
If a LEGO lion can take pride of place at the New York Public Library, why not video games in the reading rooms? The NYPLarcade program is a kind of book club for gamers, inviting participants to dive deep with discussions of strategy, game structure and more.
Poor Donna Reed: Her Mary would have ended up working in a library — shudder — if not for the matrimonial intervention of Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey. Happily, 1946's It's a Wonderful Life isn't the only lens through which pop culture assesses the worth of the institution and those who make it tick.
RKO Pictures/Getty Images
Carnegie ultimately gave away $60 million to fund a system of 1,689 public libraries across the country. "In bestowing charity the main consideration should be to help those who help themselves," he wrote.