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.

Belgium[edit]

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.)

France[edit]

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]

Ireland[edit]

Carnegie Free Library Lighthouse Service at Kish Bank lighthouse off the coast of Dublin[2]
Balbriggan Carnegie Free library
Skerries Carnegie Free library
Pearse Street Carnegie Free Library
Malahide Carnegie Free Library

Carnegie libraries are to be found throughout Ireland.[3][4] 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. 80 were constructed originally and 62 survive in their current form as of 2020 although some no longer function as libraries.[5]

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.

Cork[edit]

Dublin[edit]

Kerry[edit]

Kilkenny[edit]

Kilkenny Carnegie Library
  • Kilkenny city, John's Quay, 1910, still in use as a library[42]

Limerick[edit]

Louth[edit]

Waterford[edit]

Wicklow[edit]

Serbia[edit]

The Belgrade University Library, Serbia, is a Carnegie library.[68] 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.[69]

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.[70]) In Stoke-on-Trent the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust funded a specialist ceramics library.[71] 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,[72] 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.[73]

Some Carnegie libraries are unprotected by the listing system. 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.

England[edit]

Herne Hill Library was built in 1906 and now Grade II listed.
Levenshulme Library, a Carnegie library in a small Manchester 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

Scotland[edit]

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.[117] 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.[118]

Wales[edit]

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]

References[edit]

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