Carnegie library

:"For other uses, see Carnegie Library (disambiguation), Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Free Library and Carnegie Public LibraryCarnegie libraries are libraries which were built with money donated by Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. More than 2,500 Carnegie libraries were built, including those belonging to public and university library systems. Carnegie earned the nickname "Patron Saint of Libraries".

Of the 2,509 libraries funded between 1883 and 1929, 1,689 were built in the United States, 660 in Britain and Ireland, 156 in Canada, and others in Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, the Caribbean, and Fiji. Very few towns that requested a grant and agreed to his terms were refused. When the last grant was made in 1919, there were 3,500 libraries in the United States, nearly half of them paid for by Carnegie.

In the early 20th century, a Carnegie library was the most imposing structure in hundreds of small American communities from Maine to California. Most of the library buildings were unique, displaying a number of architectural styles including Beaux-Arts, Italian Renaissance, Baroque, Classical Revival, and Spanish Colonial. Scottish Baronial was one of the styles used in Carnegie's native Scotland. Each style was chosen by the community, although as the years went by James Bertram, Carnegie's secretary, became less tolerant of designs which were not to his taste. The architecture was typically simple and formal, welcoming patrons to enter through a prominent doorway, nearly always accessed via a staircase. The entry staircase symbolized a person's elevation by learning. Similarly, outside virtually every library was a lamppost or lantern to symbolize enlightenment.

The first of Carnegie's public libraries opened in his hometown, Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1883. As well as Carnegie's name, the building displays a motto - "Let there be light" - and a carving of the sun over the entrance. His first library in the United States was built in 1889 in Braddock, Pennsylvania, home to one of the Carnegie Steel Company's mills. Initially, Carnegie limited his support to a small number of towns in which he had an interest. From the 1890s there was a great increase in the libraries funded.

Self-improvement through learning

Books and libraries were always an important part of Carnegie's life, beginning with his childhood in Scotland. There he listened to readings and discussions of books from the Tradesman's Subscription Library which his father helped create. Later, in the United States, while working for the local telegraph company in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, Carnegie borrowed books from the personal library of Colonel James Anderson, who opened the collection to his workers every Saturday. In his autobiography, Carnegie credited Anderson with providing an opportunity for "working boys" (that some said should not be "entitled to books") to acquire the knowledge to improve themselves. ["Andrew Carnegie: A Tribute: Colonel James Anderson", Exhibit, "Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh" [] ] Carnegie's personal experience as an immigrant, who with help from others worked his way into a position of wealth, reinforced his belief in a society based on merit, where anyone who worked hard could become successful. This conviction was a major element of his philosophy of giving in general, and of his libraries as its best known expression. He was however aware that the actual society he lived in was not strictly meritocractic and that black people were sometimes denied access to his libraries in the Southern United States. Rather than insisting on his libraries being racially integrated, he built separate libraries for African Americans. For example, at Houston he funded a separate Colored Carnegie Library because of the difficulty black people had accessing the first Carnegie Library there. [This library has been discussed in Cheryl Knott Malone's essay, "Houston's Colored Carnegie Library, 1907-1922" which while still in manuscript won the Justin Winsor Prize in 1997. Accessed on-line August 2008 in a revised version [] ]

Carnegie Formula and fields for philanthropy

Carnegie believed in giving to the "industrious and ambitious; not those who need everything done for them, but those who, being most anxious and able to help themselves, deserve and will be benefited by help from others." [Andrew Carnegie, "The Best Fields for Philanthropy," "The North American Review", Volume 149, Issue 397, December, 1889 [] ] His other stated "best fields" for donating surplus wealth were universities, health care institutions, public parks, assembly halls, public swimming pools, and churches.

Nearly all of Carnegie's libraries were built according to "The Carnegie Formula", which required a kind of matching from the town that received the donation. It must:

* demonstrate the need for a public library;
* provide the building site; and
* annually provide ten percent of the cost of the library's construction to support its operation.

The amount of money donated to most communities was based on U.S. Census figures and averaged approximately $2 per person. While there were some communities that refused to seek a grant, as some people considered Carnegie's money to be tainted by his business practices or disdained the libraries as personal memorials, many communities were eager for the chance to build public institutions. James Bertram, Carnegie's personal secretary who ran the program, was never without requests.

The impact of Carnegie's library philanthropy was maximized by his timing. His offers came at a peak of town development and library expansion in the US. By 1890, many states had begun to take an active role in organizing public libraries, and the new buildings filled a tremendous need. Interest in libraries was also heightened at a crucial time in their early development by Carnegie's high profile and his genuine belief in their importance. [Bobinski, p. 191]

elf-service stacks

The design of the Carnegie libraries has been given credit for encouraging communication with the librarian, and also for creating an opportunity for people to discover books on their own. "The Carnegie libraries were important because they had open stacks which encouraged people to browse....People could choose for themselves what books they wanted to read," according to Walter E. Langsam, an architectural historian and teacher at the University of Cincinnati. Before Carnegie, patrons had to ask a clerk to retrieve books from closed stacks. [Al Andry, "New Life for Historic Libraries", "The Cincinnati Post", October 11, 1999 [] ]

Continuing legacy

Carnegie established charitable trusts which have continued his philanthropic work. However, even before his death they had reduced their involvement in the provision of libraries. There has continued to be support for library projects, for example in South Africa. [ [] "The Carnegie Corporation and South Africa: Non-European Library Services"]

While hundreds of the library buildings have been converted into museums, community centers, office buildings and residences—or demolished—more than half of those in the United States still serve their communities as libraries over a century after their construction, many in middle- to low-income neighborhoods. For example, Carnegie libraries still form the nucleus of the New York Public Library system in New York City, with 31 of the original 39 buildings still in operation. Also, the main library and seven branches of the Pittsburgh public library system are Carnegie libraries. The public library was named the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

In the late 1940s, the Carnegie Corporation of New York arranged for microfilming of the correspondence files relating to Andrew Carnegie's gifts and grants to communities for the public libraries and church organs. They then discarded the original materials. The microfilms are open for research as part of the Carnegie Corporation of New York Records collection, residing at the Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Unfortunately archivists did not microfilm photographs and blueprints of the Carnegie Libraries - these were simply discarded. The number and nature of documents within the correspondence files varies widely. Such documents may include correspondence, completed applications and questionnaires, newspaper clippings, illustrations, and building dedication programs. UK correspondence files relating to individual libraries have been preserved in Edinburgh (see section on UK libraries below).

Beginning in the 1930s, some libraries were meticulously measured, documented and photographed under the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) program of the National Park Service, and other documentation has been collected by local historical societies. Many of the Carnegie libraries in the United States, whatever their current uses, have been recognized by listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Carnegie Libraries in Canada


Toronto Public Library operates 8 libraries built with Carnegie money. A total of 10 were opened between 1907 to 1916 with one demolished:

* Central Library 1909-1977 - now Koffler Student Centre, U of T
* Yorkville 1907
* Queen and Lisgar 1909-1964 - now Toronto Public Health Clinic
* Riverdale 1910
* Beaches 1916
* High Park 1916
* Wynchwood 1916
* West Toronto 1909
* Weston 1914
* Mimico 1915-1966 - demolished and replaced by Mimico Centennial
* Birge-Carnegie Library, Victoria College - 1910-1961 - now United Church of Canada ArchivesVictoria University Archives
* Western 1908 - now Annette Street since 1962

Source: [ Toronto's Carnegie Libraries]

* Metcalfe and Laurier in Ottawa - Ottawa Public Library 1903
* Windsor - Windsor Public Library 1903
* Carnegie Building - Brampton Library 1908
* Carnegie Wing - Peterborough Public Library 1911
* Fort William Library - Thunder Bay Public Library 1912
* Berlin Public Library - Kitchener Public Library 1904
* Whitby Public Library 1914
* Whitchurch-Stouffville Public Library 1923
* Parkhill Public Library - now a branch of the Middlesex County Library 1915
* [ Port Hope Public Library] 1912
* Woodstock Public Library 1909 []

British Columbia

* Carengie Library - Greater Victoria Public Library 1906


* Carnegie Library - Lethbridge Public Library 1922
* Memorial Park Library - Calgary Public Library 1908-1911

New Brunswick

* Saint John Free Public Library - Saint John, NB 1904


* Williams Avenue - Winnipeg Public Library and now home to City of Winnipeg Archives
* St. John's Library - Winnipeg Public Library 1915
* Cornish Library - Winnipeg Public Library 1914

Carnegie Libraries in Ireland

Carnegie libraries are to be found in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. [ [ Photographic Catalogue of Irish Carnegie Libraries] ] Carnegie died before the partition of Ireland in 1921 and the creation of the Irish Free State.The Irish libraries vary considerably in size, some of the rural ones being very small.

* Lismore, County Waterford
* Rathmines
* Waterford

Carnegie Libraries in New Zealand

The money for Carnegie libraries in the "Dominions" (the term used for countries such as New Zealand) was administered from New York.
* Dunedin 1908 Dunedin Public Libraries

Carnegie Library in Trinidad

* San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago

Carnegie Libraries in UK

In Britain the process of applying for a Carnegie library was broadly similar to that in the USA, but was adapted to British legislation, eg the Public Libraries Act.From 1913 applications were handled by the Carnegie UK Trust, based in Dunfermline. The criteria favoured poorer towns which would not otherwise find it easy to build a library, but the applicants had to undertake to fund their library, providing it with books etc. from the rates. While most towns were very grateful for their grant, Carnegie's project was not without controversy. For example, some people objected to the way in which he had made his money. In the case of Stratford-on-Avon there were objections to the proposed building for conservation reasons, and this resulted in a library which blends into the half-timbered neighbouring buildings. [ [] "New York Times"]

Carnegie also provided some academic libraries in the UK. (This pattern of town and academic libraries was in line with his policy in the USA where he provided a number of college libraries, for example at Tuskegee University [ [] ] ). In Stoke-on-Trent the Carnegie UK Trust funded a specialist ceramics library. [The Carnegie UK Trust has deposited historic files in the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh, where they are available to researchers] The existence of special collections with catalogues gave scope for the development of interlibrary loans.

Many Carnegie libraries continue in use in the UK. However, the country's system of protecting historic structures by designating listed buildings tends to favour pre-twentieth century buildings, leaving some Carnegie libraries at the mercy of the developer.


* Brentford 1903, brick and terracotta construction
* Fenton, Staffordshire 1906, brick and stone construction
* Keighley 1904, stone construction. (Library run by Bradford Metropolitan District Council).
* Kendal 1909, stone construction. (Library run by Cumbria County Council) [] ]
* Levenshulme 1904
* Neston 1907
* Shipley, West Yorkshire 1905, stone construction. The building is no longer in use as a library.
* Solon Carnegie Library, academic library, no building provided. (comprised books on ceramics purchased from the estate of Marc-Louis Solon, died 1913).
* Stratford-upon-Avon, partly timber construction
* Teddington 1906, brick and stone construction
* Wednesbury 1908, red brick and limestone at a cost of £5,000.


In Scotland the Carnegie libraries were typically built of stone. [ [ Carnegie Libraries of Scotland] ] In the rest of the British Isles there was much more use of brick.
* Aberdeen Central Library 1892,
* Airdrie Public Library 1894 and 1925
* Dunfermline 1883, the first Carnegie library.


Carnegie's libraries were not exclusively for English-speakers. The Bangor library was called "Llyfrgell Rydd" ("Free Library" in the Welsh language).
* Aberystwyth
* Bangor, Gwynedd 1907, brick and stone construction
* Llandrindod Wells
* Newport (Rogerstone Library & Carnegie Library)
* Wrexham

Distribution of U.S. Carnegie libraries in 1920

The chart below lists libraries in the year after Carnegie's death. Carnegie libraries continued to be built.The last public library funded through Carnegie's generosity was the Wyoming Branch, completed in 1930 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At 231 East Wyoming Avenue, it continues as an active branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. [ [ Philadelphia Free Library and Branches] , accessed 16 May 2008. The library's claim to be the last Carnegie library in the world is debatable as the Carnegie Corporation has supported libraries in South Africa in the twenty-first century.]



* Molly Skeen (March 5, 2004) [ "How America's Carnegie Libraries Adapt to Survive"] , "Preservation Online".
* December 10, 2002. [ "Yorkville Library Celebrates Centennial"] , "The New York Public Library".
* Michael Lorenzen (1999). [ "Deconstructing the Carnegie Libraries: The Sociological Reasons Behind Carnegie's Millions to Public Libraries"] , "Illinois Libraries". 81, no. 2: 75-78.
* Theodore Jones (1997). "Carnegie Libraries Across America: A Public Legacy", John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-14422-3
* George Bobinski (1969). "Carnegie Libraries: Their History and Impact on American Public Library Development", American Library Association. ISBN 0-8389-0022-4
* Brendan Grimes (1998). "Irish Carnegie Libraries: A catalogue and architectural history", Irish Academic Press. ISBN 0-7165-2618-2

ee also

* Carnegie Free Library(disambiguation)
* Carnegie Public Library (disambiguation)

External links

* [ Carnegie Corporation of New York Records]
* [ "Carnegie Libraries: The Future Made Bright"] , National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan
* [ Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER)] , Permanent Collection, "American Memory" from the Library of Congress
* [ History of Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries]
* [ Carnegie Libraries of California]
* [ Florida's Carnegie Libraries]
* [ Carnegie Libraries of Michigan]
* [ Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh]
* [ List of Carnegie Libraries in UK and Ireland]
* [ Carnegie Libraries of Scotland]
* [ Carnegie Libraries in South Carolina]
* [ Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America]
* [ History of "Biblioteca Carnegie" in Puerto Rico] es icon

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