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Encyclopedia > Carnegie library
A Carnegie library, opened in 1913 in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, designed in Spanish Colonial style
A Carnegie library, opened in 1913 in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, designed in Spanish Colonial style

Carnegie libraries for both public use and academic institutions were built with money donated by Scottish-American businessman Andrew Carnegie, earning him the nickname, the Patron Saint of Libraries. Of the 2,509 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, 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. Carnegie library, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, 2004 by Rick Dikeman File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Carnegie library, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, 2004 by Rick Dikeman File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Andrew Carnegie (November 25, 1835 – August 11, 1919) was a Scottish-American businessman and major philanthropist and the founder of the Carnegie Steel Company which later became U. S. Steel. ... 1883 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... 1929 (MCMXXIX) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ... ... 1919 (MCMXIX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ...


In the early 20th century, a Carnegie library was the most imposing structure in hundreds of small American communities from Maine to California. Contrary to the belief of many people, most of the library buildings were unique, displaying a number of different Beaux-Arts and other architectural styles, including Italian Renaissance, Baroque, Classical Revival and Spanish Colonial. Each style was chosen by the community and was typically simple and formal, welcoming patrons to enter through a prominent doorway. Outside virtually every branch, a lamp post or lantern symbolized enlightenment. See also: Carnegie libraries image gallery (19th century - 20th century - 21st century - more centuries) Decades: 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s As a means of recording the passage of time, the 20th century was that century which lasted from 1901–2000 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar (1900–1999 in the... State nickname: The Pine Tree State Official languages None Capital Augusta Largest city Portland Governor John Baldacci (D) Senators Olympia Snowe (R) Susan Collins (R) Area  - Total  - % water Ranked 39th 86,542 km² 13. ... State nickname: The Golden State Official languages English Capital Sacramento Largest city Los Angeles Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) Senators Dianne Feinstein (D) Barbara Boxer (D) Area  - Total  - % water Ranked 3rd 410,000 km² 4. ... ... Depending on the nature of the structure, the skills of the architect ranges from the complex, such as a hospital or a stadium, to something more simple, such as planning buildings in a residential area. ... By region Italian Renaissance Spanish Renaissance Northern Renaissance French Renaissance German Renaissance English Renaissance The Renaissance, also known as Il Rinascimento (in Italian), was an influential cultural movement which brought about a period of scientific revolution and artistic transformation, at the dawn of modern European history. ... Adoration, by Peter Paul Rubens: dynamic figures spiral down around a void: draperies blow: a whirl of movement lit in a shaft of light, rendered in a free bravura handling of paint In arts, the Baroque (or baroque) is both a period and the style that dominated it. ... These early 20th century postcards illustrate some of the architectural diversity of Carnegie libraries in the United States. ...


The first of Carnegie's public libraries opened in his hometown, Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1883. As with most of the others, contrary to common perception, his name did not appear on the building. Rather, he had a motto -- "Let there be light" -- inscribed 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. The Royal Burgh of Dunfermline (in Gaelic, Dùn Phàrlain), is a town and burgh in Fife, Scotland, that sits on high ground 3 miles from the shore of the Firth of Forth, northwest of Edinburgh. ... Transport in Scotland Timeline of Scottish history Caledonia List of not fully sovereign nations Subdivisions of Scotland National parks (Scotland) Traditional music of Scotland Flower of Scotland Wars of Scottish Independence National Trust for Scotland Historic houses in Scotland Castles in Scotland Museums in Scotland Abbeys and priories in Scotland... 1883 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... 1889 was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ... Braddock is a borough located in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, ten miles (16 km) above the mouth of the Monongahela river. ... State nickname: The Keystone State Official languages None Capital Harrisburg Largest city Philadelphia Governor Ed Rendell (D) Senators Arlen Specter (R) Rick Santorum (R) Area  - Total  - % water Ranked 33rd 119,283 km² 2. ...

Detail of the entrance to the Carnegie library pictured above
Detail of the entrance to the Carnegie library pictured above

Contents

A Carnegie library: Detail of the entrance to the Avondale Branch, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Cincinnati, OH, USA, 2004, by Rick Dikeman File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... A Carnegie library: Detail of the entrance to the Avondale Branch, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Cincinnati, OH, USA, 2004, by Rick Dikeman File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ...


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 that his father helped create. Later, in the United States, while working for the local telegraph company in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, he 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, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh [1]) Northside refers both to the region of Pittsburgh to the north of the Allegheny River and Ohio River and to a small neighborhood within that region. ... State nickname: The Keystone State Official languages None Capital Harrisburg Largest city Philadelphia Governor Ed Rendell (D) Senators Arlen Specter (R) Rick Santorum (R) Area  - Total  - % water Ranked 33rd 119,283 km² 2. ...


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.


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 [2]) 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 the town that received the gift to:

  • 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, considering Carnegie's money to be tainted by his business practices, or disdaining the libraries as memorials to himself, the mailbox of James Bertram, Carnegie's personal secretary who ran the program, was always full of requests. The U.S. Census is mandated by the United States Constitution. ...


The impact of Carnegie's philanthropy was maximized by its perfect timing. It came during the peak of 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 heightened at a crucial time in their early development by Carnegie's high profile and his genuine belief in their importance. (Bobinski, p. 191) 1890 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ...


Self-service stacks

Carnegie library interior, with the typical centrally-located librarian's desk and innovative open stacks
Carnegie library interior, with the typical centrally-located librarian's desk and innovative open stacks

"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 [3]) Download high resolution version (427x640, 46 KB)Carnegie library interior, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, 2004 by Rick Dikeman File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Download high resolution version (427x640, 46 KB)Carnegie library interior, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, 2004 by Rick Dikeman File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ...


Continuing legacy

While hundreds of the library buildings have been repurposed -- as museums, community centers, office buildings and residences -- or destroyed, more than half of those in the United States still serve their communities, many in middle-to-low income neighborhoods, over a century after their construction. 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. New York Public Library, central block, built 1897–1911, Carrère and Hastings, architects (June 2003) The New York Public Library (NYPL), one of three public library systems serving New York City, is one of the leading libraries in the United States. ... Midtown Manhattan, looking north from the Empire State Building, 2005 New York City (officially named the City of New York) is the most populous city in the state of New York and the entire United States. ...


Distribution of U.S. Carnegie libraries in 1920

Alphabetical by State   Ranked by Number

 
Alabama 14   Indiana 165
Alaska 0   California 142
Arizona 4   Illinois 106
Arkansas 4   New York 106
California 142   Ohio 106
Colorado 36   Iowa 101
Connecticut 11   Nebraska 69
Delaware 0   Minnesota 64
District of Columbia 4   Wisconsin 63
Florida 10   Michigan 61
Georgia 24   Kansas 59
Hawaii 1   Pennsylvania 59
Idaho 10   Washington 44
Illinois 106   Massachusetts 43
Indiana 165   Colorado 36
Iowa 101   New Jersey 36
Kansas 59   Missouri 33
Kentucky 23   Texas 32
Louisiana 9   Oregon 31
Maine 18   South Dakota 25
Maryland 14   Georgia 24
Massachusetts 43   Oklahoma 24
Michigan 61   Kentucky 23
Minnesota 64   Utah 23
Mississippi 11   Maine 18
Missouri 33   Montana 17
Montana 17   Wyoming 16
Nebraska 69   Alabama 14
Nevada 1   Maryland 14
New Hampshire 9   South Carolina 14
New Jersey 36   Tennessee 13
New Mexico 3   Connecticut 11
New York 106   Mississippi 11
North Carolina 10   Florida 10
North Dakota 8   Idaho 10
Ohio 106   North Carolina 10
Oklahoma 24   Louisiana 9
Oregon 31   New Hampshire 9
Pennsylvania 59   North Dakota 8
Rhode Island 0   Arizona 4
South Carolina 14   Arkansas 4
South Dakota 25   District of Columbia 4
Tennessee 13   Vermont 4
Texas 32   New Mexico 3
Utah 23   Virginia 3
Vermont 4   West Virginia 3
Virginia 3   Hawaii 1
Washington 44   Nevada 1
West Virginia 3   Alaska 0
Wisconsin 63   Delaware 0
Wyoming 16   Rhode Island 0

See also

These early 20th century postcards illustrate some of the architectural diversity of Carnegie libraries in the United States. ...

References

  • 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. Illinois Libraries.
  • Theodore Jones (1997). Carnegie Libraries Across America: A Public Legacy. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0471144223
  • George Bobinski (1969). Carnegie Libraries: Their History and Impact on American Public Library Development. American Library Association. ISBN 0838900224

External links


 
 

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