Monday, March 22, 2010

Andrew Carnegie and his libaries

Andrew Carnegie became the world's richest man and he wanted to repay humanity for his success.  One way of doing that was to build libraries.  When he was a young man and working for the Pennsylvania Central railroad, a man by the name of J. B. Anderson was important in operating the railroad.  Mr. Anderson had a personal library of some 5,000 books and he invited young Andrew into his home to read and study.  Carnegie never forgot.

In 1899, Carnegie wrote to his widow who was living then in Manhattan, Kansas.  He told her, he wanted to do something in honor of his old friend in the way of a memorial.  Mrs. Anderson replied that the library was now housed in the College of Emporia but under less than acceptable conditions.  Carnegie had a library built to house the Anderson collection.  I wonder if it is still standing?  If anyone reads this in Emporia, Kansas, please reply.

Many of the Carnegie libraries in Illinois have been destroyed, but some are still standing and in use.  Whenever, I drive through a new town, I try to always look for a Carnegie library.  In Oklahoma City, where I grew up,  there was  a Carnegie library which I often used.  However it was badly damaged in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in 1995. I don't know its current status.

More than 2,500 libraries were built with Carnegie money, 1,689 built in the United States.  600 in Great Britain and Ireland, 125 in Canada and others in Australia, New Zealand, Serbia and the Caribbean.  The first library was opened in his hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland.  The motto over the front door was "Let there be light."

More on the same subject tomorrow.

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