Andrew Carnegie

History of the Carnegie Libraries

by Dr. George S. Bobinski

Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation provided funding for 1,681 public library buildings in 1,412 U.S. communities between 1889 and 1923. This philanthropy had a great impact on the growth of public library development in the United States. Free public libraries supported by local taxation had begun with Boston in 1849 and slowly spread throughout the country. The Carnegie benefactions made them leap forward. This internationally famous celebrity chose libraries as one of the primary sources for his philanthropy. He also attached two conditions to his offer of money for a public library building--the local community had to provide a suitable site and formally agree to continuously support the library through local tax funds. The latter solidified acceptance of the concept of tax support for libraries.

Library benefactions influenced hundreds of local philanthropists who then supported their local libraries on a smaller scale. Nine hundred public libraries in 1896 grew to almost 4,000 by 1925. We now have about 9,000 public libraries with approximately 6,300 additional branch library locations.

Click below for more information on Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie Grants, or California Grants, by Lucy Kortum.

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