First Carnegie Public Library in the World

Dunfermline born Andrew Carnegie gifted 2811 libraries throughout the world, the name became synonymous with philanthropy, libraries and education.

While a teenager, living in Pittsburgh, USA he would borrow books from General Anderson, every Saturday for free and that made an impression on his view of reading and access to books. It was his desire to help people get access to books that stimulated his library building programme.

Carnegie offered to build libraries on the condition that the guild, local council or government would agree to fill it with books and maintain it, “an endowed institution is liable to become the prey of a clique. The public ceases to take interest in it, or, rather, never acquires interest in it. The rule has been violated which requires the recipients to help themselves. Everything has been done for the community instead of its being only helped to help itself.” Carnegie wrote in his book The Gospel of Wealth.

Rather than being charitable, it was Carnegie’s philanthropy which should be remembered. 

Front door of Dunfermline’s Carnegie Public Library
Fife Cultural Trust (Dunfermline Local Studies) on behalf of Fife Council.

Dunfermline is proud and excited that his birth town was the first in which a Carnegie Public Library was opened. The architect was James Campbell Walker, he also designed the City Chambers at the Kirkgate. If you enjoy architecture spotting, try and find his ‘signature.’ a carved square stone with his initials ‘JCW’ overlapped, it is on both buildings. Above the original front door of this library is written “let there be light” a favourite motto of Carnegie.

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