July 22, 2013

Andrew Carnegie Libraries : A good story.

I love books. (The Guernsey Literary & Potato Pie Society, which I mentioned I was reading the other day, ended up to be one of my all-time favorites.)  I love geography & history.  And I love a good story. 
Andrew Carnegie is a good story.

Andrew Carnegie (born 1835) immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1848.  Times were hard in Scotland, and his family decided to move to America for the prospect of a better life.  They had to borrow money to do so. 
His first job at age 13 in 1848 was as a bobbin boy, changing spools of thread in a cotton mill 12 hours a day, 6 days a week in a Pittsburgh cotton factory. His starting wage was $1.20 per week.
(That's a 72 hour week, making under 2¢ per hour.)
He later became a telegraph messenger earning $2.50 per week, and was promoted to operator.  He advanced quickly for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, and eventually made his fortune in the steel industry.  He built Pittsburgh's Carnegie Steel Company, which he sold for $480 million in 1901. 
His life has often been referred to as a true "rags to riches" story.
Carnegie devoted the remainder of his life to large-scale philanthropy, with special emphasis on local libraries, world peace, education and scientific research.

Books and libraries were important to Carnegie, beginning with his childhood in Scotland.  His 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 which are his best known gifts.
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.
A total of 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built between 1883 and 1929, including some belonging to public and university library systems. 1,689 were built in the United States, 660 in Britain and Ireland, 125 in Canada, and others in Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, the Caribbean, Mauritius and Fiji. 

Carnegie required recipients to 1) Demonstrate the need for a public library.  2) Provide the building site. 3) Annually provide ten percent of the cost of the library's construction to support its operation. And 4) Provide free service to all.
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, meant as a symbol of enlightenment.

I've seen several Carnegie Libraries, and I wished I'd photographed them all.  But that thought hadn't occurred to me until now, and I have just two of them in my archives.  
This is the Carnegie Library in beautiful Bayfield, Wisconsin.
I happened to photograph the library while out for a stroll, admiring the local architecture last summer.
Built in 1903, it was under some exterior repair / upkeep during our visit.

The other Carnegie Library in my photo archives was taken as I passed through Crookston, MN on the way to northwest North Dakota two years ago. (see our prairie photo tour here)

I took this photo of the library (built in 1907) in Crookston, because something caught my eye as I passed by.  Zoom view:

CARNEGIE PVBLIC LIBRARY.  This perplexed me and has puzzled me ever since, wondering why the spelling?

Regardless, Andrew Carnegie definitely left his mark on our world. 
I'm inspired by his beliefs and generosity. 
Do you have a Carnegie Public Library near you? 
Sharing with 52 Photos Project  Our World Tuesday  and Tuesday Muse


  1. thanks for teaching me about the carnegie libraries. very cool effot and legacy.

    re: the V instead of U

    In the original Latin alphabet, the character "v" sufficed for both the consonant "v" and the vowel "u". The replacement of the character "u" with "v" can be seen on neoclassical architecture in the United States, derived from the American Renaissance movement (1876-1917), reflecting the Ancient Roman influence on the architectural style.

    1. Thanks for the explanation! I have asked several people about the "V" and no one has ever mentioned that. Good to know. :)

  2. it's just the classic Roman way to make a u.

    we have a couple original Carnegie libraries in our town. grand buildings.

    thanks for the story of his life.

  3. My Wisconsin town had a Carnegie Library and I will never forget getting my first library card ever there! I can still remember the smell of that library. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Pie Society is one of my favorite books, too!
    Enjoyed your post.

  4. No Carnegie libraries in Portland (that I know of).

    A couple of months ago I read a biography about Andrew Carnegie. Very interesting read about an amazing man. Yes, the author covered both the good and the bad, but I came away respecting someone who started out with nothing, became a multi-millionaire, and then decided to give away all his wealth for charitable purposes. Some of today's well-to-do could learn from Carnegie's example.

  5. What lovely architecture! I loved the Guernsey book too!

  6. That first image really has atmosphere! Libraries give possibilities for everyone.

    1. Thanks, Sivinden! Those are books in my own living room.. That stack holds some of my favorites to thumb through.

  7. I love books, too!

  8. I loved the 'Potato Pie Society' too, even the title was bewitching. No Carnegie libraries here. I enjoyed all of this information, such clean cut and prestigious architecture for the wealth of books that lie with in them. Terrific post.

  9. Great info about Carnegie. I had never given him much thought before. I love my local libray in Nahant, MA. it is in the most beautiful and interesting old building. We are a very tiny little community and are not on line. We actually still have the old card system. It tries my brain just trying to remember how to use it. When I take out books they pull out little stamps and stamp dates and numbers all over the place. I don't even have a real card. They just keep my name on record. It's really cool

  10. I didn't know about the collection of Carnegie Libraries in the U.S. Very interesting post Amanda! Thank you. xo

  11. I'm a book-lover, too...and this is fascinating! Love the photos you have so far.

  12. Thanks for sharing the story of Carnegie. We have a Carnegie library in my town in the UK ,Unfortunately the town outgrew the library and had to move into a new building...

  13. Wonderful informative write up! I love books and find out interesting books to read.
    thanks for sharing a great post.

  14. Great story, and what a wonderful name for a literary society. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  15. Wonderful! Nice to learn more about Carnegie and the libraries. I do love books. Happy Tuesday!

  16. We had a Carnegie library in the town where I grew up. I'm not sure the building is still there. It wasn't quite as grand as the two you've pictured.

  17. I `ve learned something new today ! Thank you! The above mentioned book is one of my favorite books ,gave it to my 14 year old daughter and she devoured it.Fantastic read.

  18. You have a keen eye for detail... for noticing what appears to be a spelling error.

    There are Carnegie libraries in Canada too.

  19. We have several Carnegie libraries in Britain too, though some have been allowed to go to rack and ruin sadly.

    I love books. I am a librarian and an avid reader. So I'm grateful to Carnegie for his legacy.

  20. We have one in our small town (Spring Valley, MN). It served well for many decades till recently. Then it became the city hall and the library was expanded into a much larger building. I enjoyed reading of your love for geography & history, Amanda. I taught Senior Social and World History for many years and then, looking for something different, I switched to a new Middle School teaching Geography and American History. What fun that was! I love it..:)

  21. Amanda,
    I have not done any research or reading on Carnegie. This post is very interesting.

    I have a file folder of books and authors that catch my eye. I also have a pile of books from my Mom, mostly true Race Horse stories. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Pie Society will be something I will look into.

    I just finished my second John Matthews book series, two series each including two books. If you like John Grisham, check out Matthews.

    I am currently reading a Barbra Freethy book. I felt the need for a lighter hearted story. Gone With the Wind is in the near future.

  22. No we don't,but I worked in a library for five years. I love books too!