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Photographer Robert Dawson will spend one year documenting the culture of public libraries and literacy in San Joaquin County—collaborating with the Library and Literacy Foundation for San Joaquin County (the Foundation) and in partnership with the Stockton-San Joaquin Public Library. In addition to collecting images of the libraries, bookmobile, and literacy activities in homeless shelters, neighborhood centers, and outlying parts of the county, Dawson will gather stories of how people use the libraries and literacy programs. Photographic historian and curator Ellen Manchester will research archives that will provide context for presenting the images.

They artists and nonprofit are planning a large-format print version for exhibition in Stockton; a digital exhibition for presentation in branch libraries, community centers, and other public spaces; an interactive Website; a media campaign; and an archive of prints to be donated to the libraries’ special collections. The Foundation and library are introducing Dawson to community members, helping him to scout subject matter, and working with him on the public presentations and media campaign.

Lead artist Robert Dawson grew up in West Sacramento. He completed a large-scale photographic study of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys between 1982 and 1993 that culminated in the traveling exhibition and book, The Great Central Valley: California’s Heartland (University of California Press, 1993). Since 1994, he has been working on a photographic study of public libraries throughout the United States.

Founded in 1990, the Library & Literacy Foundation supports family and community literacy programs and works on improving and expanding public library services in Stockton and San Joaquin County.

Photo credit: Robert Dawson