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"The Utmost Amount of Effectiv [sic] Accommodation": Andrew Carnegie and the Reform of the American Library

Abigail A. van Slyck
Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
Vol. 50, No. 4 (Dec., 1991), pp. 359-383
DOI: 10.2307/990662
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/990662
Page Count: 25
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Abstract

The last years of the nineteenth century saw the widespread acceptance of the idea that library facilities should be made available to the American public free of charge. In the same years, the design of the free American library was at the center of a prolonged and heated debate: on one hand, the newly organized library profession called for designs that supported efficiency in library administration; on the other, the men of wealth who often underwrote library construction continued to favor buildings that reinforced the paternalistic metaphor that sustained their philanthropic activities. Between 1886 and 1917, Andrew Carnegie undertook a program of library giving that reformed both library philanthropy and library design, encouraging a closer correspondence between the two. Using the corporation as his model, Carnegie introduced many of the philanthropic practices of the modern foundation. At the same time, he rejected the rigid social and spatial hierarchy of the nineteenth-century library. In over 1,600 buildings that resulted directly from this program and in hundreds of others influenced by its forms, Carnegie helped create an American public library type that embraced the planning principles espoused by librarians while extending a warmer welcome to the reading public.

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