Wednesday, April 7, 2010


The New York Public Library system is a beautiful thing to behold in the city.  The main branch, with Bryant Park in its backyard and two lions guarding its front, is breathtaking and feels more like a museum than a library.  The 'front porch':

The front door:

The Rose Reading Room:

One can no longer check things out at this location, but there are lending libraries throughout the city.  Two of them are within a mile of me, both built with Carnegie funds:

The Webster branch is among the oldest in the city.  Its website reports: ...the Webster Branch has a history that can be traced back to 1893, before its incorporation into The New York Public Library Branch system. Founded as the Webster Free Library, it was named after Charles B. Webster, who donated the building on East 76th Street where the library was originally located. The current site on 78th Street and York Avenue was designed by architects Babb, Cook & Willard and was constructed from funds donated to New York by Andrew Carnegie. The branch opened to the public on October 24, 1906. The three story facility houses an adult, young adult, and children's collection. While the branch originally served a predominantly Czech immigrant population in the early part of the century, it now serves a diverse community of New Yorkers on the Upper East Side.

Seeing the Carnegie name brought me back to my childhood.  My hometown library was also a Carnegie Library.  The grand building was perched on one of the highest hills in town, and had magnificent views of the small city and the river valley below.  I spent many happy hours there, and often read all the books I checked out within a day of returning home with them.  Yep, book nerd.

Curious about the Carnegie connection, I found the following on Wiki:

A Carnegie library is a library built with money donated by Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. More than 2,500 Carnegie libraries were built, including some belonging to public and university library systems.

Of the 2,509 such libraries funded between 1883 and 1929, 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.[citation needed] Very 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 article goes on to say that of all of the original buildings, about half are still functioning libraries close to 100 years later.   Such an amazing legacy to the U.S. citizenry and others around the world.  I, for one, am grateful.

No comments:

Post a Comment