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Carnegie library


A Carnegie library is a library built with money donated by Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. 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 the United Kingdom and Ireland, 125 in Canada, and others in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Serbia, Belgium, France, the Caribbean, Mauritius, Malaysia and Fiji.

At first, Carnegie libraries were almost exclusively in places where he had a personal connection, namely his home-town in Scotland and the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. Beginning in 1899, Carnegie substantially increased funding to libraries outside of these areas.

In later years few towns that requested a grant and agreed to his terms were refused. By the time the last grant was made in 1919, there were 3,500 libraries in the United States, nearly half of them built with construction grants paid by Carnegie.



"an endowed institution is liable to become the prey of a clique. The public ceases to take interest in it, or, rather, never acquires interest in it. The rule has been violated which requires the recipients to help themselves. Everything has been done for the community instead of its being only helped to help itself."
  • demonstrate the need for a public library;
  • provide the building site;
  • pay to staff and maintain the library;
  • draw from public funds to run the library—not use only private donations;
  • annually provide ten percent of the cost of the library's construction to support its operation; and,
  • provide free service to all.
  • Anderson, Florence. Carnegie Corporation Library Program, 1911-1961... (Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1963)
  • Bobinski, George S. "Carnegie libraries: Their history and impact on American public library development." ALA Bulletin (1968): 1361-1367. in JSTOR
  • Ditzion, Sidney. Arsenals of a Democratic Culture (American Library Association, 1947).
  • Fultz, Michael. "Black Public Libraries in the South in the Era of De Jure Segregation" Libraries & the Cultural Record (2006). 41(3), 337-359.
  • Garrison, Dee. Apostles of culture : the public librarian and American society, 1876-1920 (New York: Free Press, 1979).
  • Grimes, Brendan. (1998). Irish Carnegie Libraries: A catalogue and architectural history, Irish Academic Press.
  • Harris, Michael. (1974). "The Purpose of the American Public Library, A Revisionist Interpretation of History" Library Journal 98:2509-2514.
  • Jones, Theodore. (1997). Carnegie Libraries Across America: A Public Legacy, John Wiley & Sons.
  • Kevane, M.J. and W.A. Sundstrom, "Public libraries and political participation, 1870-1940" Santa Clara University Scholar Commons (2016)online; uses advanced statistics to find a new library had no effect on voter turnout
  • Kevane, Michael, & Sundstrom, William A. (2014). "The Development of Public Libraries in the United States, 1870-1930: A Quantitative Assessment" Information and Culture, 49#2, 117-144.
  • Lorenzen,Michael. (1999). "Deconstructing the Carnegie Libraries: The Sociological Reasons Behind Carnegie's Millions to Public Libraries", Illinois Libraries. 81, no. 2: 75–78.
  • Martin, Robert Sidney. Carnegie denied: communities rejecting Carnegie Library construction grants, 1898-1925 (Greenwood Press, 1993)
  • Miner, Curtis. "The'Deserted Parthenon': Class, Culture and the Carnegie Library of Homestead, 1898–1937." Pennsylvania History (1990): 107-135. in JSTOR
  • Nasaw, David. Andrew Carnegie. New York: Penguin Press, 2006.
  • Pollak, Oliver B. A State of Readers, Nebraska's Carnegie Libraries, (Lincoln: J. & L. Lee Publishers, 2005).
  • Prizeman, Oriel. Philanthropy and light: Carnegie libraries and the advent of transatlantic standards for public space (Ashgate, 2013).
  • Swetman, Susan H. (1991). "Pro-Carnegie library arguments and contemporary concerns in the intermountain west." Journal of the West 30#3, 63-68.
  • Watson, Paula. (1996). "Carnegie Ladies, Lady Carnegies : Women and the Building of Libraries." Libraries & Culture 31#1, 159-196.
  • Watson, Paula D. (1994). "Founding mothers: the contribution of women's organizations to public library development in the United States" Library Quarterly 64(3), 233-270.
  • Wiegand, Wayne A. (2011). Main Street Public Library: Community Places and Reading Spaces in the Rural Heartland, 1876-1956 (University of Iowa Press).
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