List of Carnegie libraries in Europe

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Bideford Library, Devon, England, built 1905

This is an incomplete list of Carnegie libraries in Europe.


The University Library, Leuven, Belgium
The University Library, Leuven, after fire damage in the First World War

A Carnegie library was built in the 1920s for the University of Leuven to replace a building destroyed in the First World War.

Funding came from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which also built libraries in the war-damaged cities of Rheims and Belgrade. The architect of the Leuven library was Whitney Warren. Although the architect was American, he employed a Flemish style for this commission. His building in turn suffered severe damage in the Second World War, but has been restored. (For more details of this library, see Catholic University of Leuven.)


The Carnegie library of Reims is the single Carnegie library in France. Reims was devastated in the First World War and the losses included library accommodation in the town-hall. The provision of a new library was conceived as a contribution to the city's reconstruction. Reims was one of three "front-line" cities to be given a Carnegie library, the other two being Leuven and Belgrade.

The Art Deco building was finished in 1927, and opened the following year in the presence of Gaston Doumergue, the French President and Myron T. Herrick, the US ambassador. The building was restored at the beginning of the 21st century. The library stock includes some material which survived World War I.[1]


Carnegie Library Lighthouse Service

Carnegie libraries are to be found throughout Ireland.[2] Libraries vary considerably in size, some of the rural ones being very small, but the smallest must be the cabinets used for the Carnegie Library Lighthouse Service.

A full list and description of Carnegie libraries in Ireland can be found in Irish Carnegie Libraries: a Catalogue & Architectural History by Brendan Grimes (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1998). The examples listed below are in the Republic of Ireland.


The Belgrade University Library, Serbia, is a Carnegie library.[4] Much of Belgrade was destroyed in the First World War, and in the 1920s it became one of three "front-line" cities to receive a Carnegie library, the other two being Leuven and Rheims.

United Kingdom[edit]

The first Carnegie library to be built was in Scotland, which was Dunfermline Carnegie Library, Carnegie's birthplace. The English Carnegie libraries began to be built at the beginning of the 20th century. Carnegie, who in his retirement divided his time between the US and Scotland, opened some British libraries personally.

In Britain the process of applying for a Carnegie library was broadly similar to that in the US. It was adapted to British legislation, e.g. the Public Libraries Act, which permitted expenditure from the rates on local libraries. Carnegie assessed applications using criteria which favoured poorer towns, but applicants had to undertake to support their library, providing it with books etc. from the rates. While most towns were very grateful to receive a grant, Carnegie's project was not without controversy. For example, some people objected to the way in which he had made his money. In the case of Stratford-on-Avon there were objections to the proposed building for conservation reasons, and this resulted in a library which blends into the half-timbered neighbouring buildings.[5]

Most Carnegie libraries served the general population of towns and cities, but he also provided some academic libraries in the UK. (This pattern of town and academic libraries was in line with his policy in the US where he provided a number of college libraries, for example at Tuskegee University.[6]) In Stoke-on-Trent the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust funded a specialist ceramics library.[7] The existence of special collections with catalogues gave scope for the development of interlibrary loans.

From 1913 applications were handled by the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust,[8] based in Carnegie's home town, Dunfermline. The trust continued to fund libraries after Carnegie's death in 1919, but its priorities shifted to other areas of its charitable work.

Current status of Carnegie libraries[edit]

As at 2011 many of the UK's Carnegie libraries continue to be used for their original purpose. However, Carnegie libraries are being affected by local authority budget cuts which are reducing the number of public libraries across the country.[9]

The fate of library buildings which are closed is uncertain. It depends partly on heritage listing. The British system of designating listed buildings has tended to favour pre-20th century buildings, with the result that at the beginning of the 21st century some Carnegie libraries are unprotected and thus at the mercy of the developer once they are no longer required by the local authority. Over the years some Carnegie libraries have been demolished, e.g. Grays (details in the list below). On the other hand, new uses have been found for other Carnegie libraries, e.g. Pontefract's Carnegie library is now a museum.

Herne Hill Library was built in 1906 and now Grade II listed.
Levenshulme Library, a Carnegie library in a small Manchester, England suburb, was built in 1904.
The technical college, Stoke-on-Trent, housed the Solon Carnegie Library. Unusually, this building of 1914 was provided from public funds and the books themselves by Carnegie.
Southend-on-Sea Public Library (1905), in use since 1981 as the town's museum
Westhoughton Library and Museum (1906)


The first Carnegie library to open in Andrew Carnegie's home town of Dunfermline in Scotland


Govanhill & Crosshill District Library, Scotland, built in 1906 by architect James Robert Rhind
Plaque in Arthurstone Library, Dundee, Scotland acknowledging donation by Andrew Carnegie

In Scotland the Carnegie libraries were typically built of stone.[52] In the rest of the British Isles there was much more use of brick. The drawings of the Carnegie libraries designed by architect James Robert Rhind are in the Strathclyde Archives, Glasgow.[53]


Carnegie's libraries were not exclusively for English-speakers. The Bangor library was called Llyfrgell Rydd ("Free Library" in Welsh).

Cathays Library, in Cardiff, opened 1906

Northern Ireland[edit]


  1. ^ La Bibliothèque Carnegie Archived 8 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Catalogue of the Photographic Exhibition of Irish Carnegie Libraries" (PDF). An Chomhairle Leabharlanna (Library Council of Ireland). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ "University Library "Svetozar Marković"". University of Belgrade. Archived from the original on 12 October 2009. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  5. ^ "Carnegie and Corelli" New York Times article from 1903. (Carnegie libraries usually avoided using wood, although Stratford-on-Avon is not the only example of wooden construction, the material is used at Hull's Carnegie Heritage Centre, for example).
  6. ^ Up from Slavery, Booker T. Washington refers to a grant received from Carnegie in 1900 to provide the college library.
  7. ^ The Carnegie United Kingdom Trust has deposited historic files in the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh, where they are available to researchers
  8. ^ "Improving Wellbeing in the UK & Ireland - Carnegie UK Trust".
  9. ^ Tonmkin, Boyd (April 2011). "A fresh wind from the Humber". The Independent. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  10. ^ The Bromley Record, June 1906, page 98
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  13. ^ The Fiftieth Annual Report of the Free Libraries Committee: April 1st, 1911, to March 31st, 1912 (City of Birmingham, Birmingham, 1912), pp. 9-10.
  14. ^ "Foleshill Library's extension officially opened". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  15. ^ Lambourne, David. 'Lincolnshire's Carnegie Libraries', Lincolnshire Past and Present Vols. 85–90. Article can be accessed at the Internet Archive
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  18. ^ a b c d e Lambourne, op. cit.
  19. ^ The History of Bournemouth Libraries
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  22. ^ Historic England. "CRADLEY HEATH PUBLIC LIBRARY (1229308)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
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  25. ^ "Kendal Library - Visit Cumbria". Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  26. ^ "Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council". Archived from the original on 22 January 2010. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
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  34. ^ 2. Herts Advertiser April 1947
  35. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 July 2009. Retrieved 21 July 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  37. ^ Street, Malcolm. "Sowerby Bridge Public Library".
  38. ^ Lambourne, op. cit
  39. ^ "LCC comments on Stamford Library" (PDF).
  40. ^ "The Carnegie Centre: Stapleford Town Council". Archived from the original on 25 September 2013.
  41. ^ juliac2, Author (7 January 2017). "Stourbridge library". The Carnegie legacy in England. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  42. ^ "Heritage Trail Leaflet 210x210mm:Layout 1" (PDF). Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  43. ^ "Lister Steps".
  44. ^ juliac2, Author (9 October 2016). "Walsall library". The Carnegie legacy in England. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  45. ^ "Wakefield One Library and Museum". Archived from the original on 23 January 2013.
  46. ^ "The Art House, Old Library".
  47. ^ juliac2, Author (9 October 2016). "West Bromwich library". The Carnegie legacy in England. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  48. ^ 1RU, Bolton Council, Town Hall, Victoria Square, Bolton, BL1. "Westhoughton Library".
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  50. ^ Council, Worthing Borough. "Stories of Worthing".
  51. ^ a b "Library". Archived from the original on 20 March 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
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  53. ^ "James R. Rhind". Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  54. ^ Scotland, Gerald Blaikie, Glasgow. "Early Carnegie Libraries".
  55. ^ Brynmawr Museum
  56. ^ Llantwit Fardre Community Council - Parish Hall
  57. ^ Coflein - Carnegie Library Deinolen
  58. ^ Powys CC - Radnorshire Museum
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  60. ^ Coflein - Pontypool Public Library
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