Union, South Carolina
A Carnegie library is a library built with money donated by Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. 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, and Fiji. 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 built with construction grants paid by Carnegie.
The first of Carnegie's public libraries opened in his hometown, Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1883. The locally quarried sandstone building displays a stylised sun with a carved motto - "Let there be light" at 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 few towns in which he had an interest. From the 1890s on, his foundation funded a dramatic increase in number of libraries. This coincided with the rise of women's clubs in the post-Civil War period, which were most responsible for organizing efforts to establish libraries, including long-term fundraising and lobbying within their communities to support operations and collections. They led the establishment of 75-80 percent of the libraries in communities across the country.
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." Under segregation black people were generally denied access to public libraries in the Southern United States. Rather than insisting on his libraries being racially integrated, he funded separate libraries for African Americans. For example, at Houston he funded a separate Colored Carnegie Library.
Most of the library buildings were unique, constructed in a number of 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.Edward Lippincott Tilton, a friend often recommended by Bertram, designed many of the buildings. 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.
In the early 20th century, a Carnegie library was often the most imposing structure in hundreds of small American communities.
SIX MILE PRESS
Stephen T. Powell
Central, South Carolina
January 1, 2012