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12 impressive Carnegie libraries still in use today

By: Angela Nelson on Sept. 29, 2016, 6:37 a.m.
Andrew Carnegie's motto, "Let There Be Light," is pictured on Edinburgh Central Library in Scotland.

Photo: Kim Traynor/Wikimedia Commons

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A mission to educate

Andrew Carnegie, a 19th century industrialist and philanthropist best known as the founder of Carnegie Hall in New York or Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, was fond of libraries, even though he only had three years of formal schooling. As a lad in Scotland, he listened to men read books borrowed from the Tradesmen’s Subscription Library — a library that his father helped create. And as a teen in the United States, he borrowed books from a local colonel who opened his personal library once a week. "Carnegie later said the colonel opened the windows through which the light of knowledge streamed," according to the National Park Service.

Carnegie went on to amass a fortune in the railroad and steel industries, but the Scottish-American businessman gave 90 percent of it away — about $350 million. In 1889, he wrote an essay called "The Gospel of Wealth," where he detailed his philanthropic strategy: "In bestowing charity the main consideration should be to help those who help themselves." He also said, according to the NPS, that wealthy men should live without extravagance, provide moderately for their dependents, and distribute the rest of their riches to benefit the welfare and happiness of the common man.

Though Carnegie donated to a variety of charities, his most famous and lasting contributions were the 2,509 libraries built around the world between 1883 and 1929, in both small towns and big cities, in more than 10 countries. The following is a selection of Carnegie libraries that were of particular significance to him and his legacy.