Philanthropy 101: A Library of Your Own
By the first few years of the 20th century, Carnegie had refined the giving of libraries into a neat, streamlined procedure. Over 33 years, he provided funds for 2,811 libraries in all, including 23 in New Zealand, 13 in South Africa, and one in Fiji. Ordering a library from Carnegie was as easy as ordering a sofa from the Sears Catalog.
Step One: Make the request.
Submit the request in writing to Carnegie's New York home, and be sure to include the population of your town.
Step Two: Provide the site.
Preferably, the town should provide land near the center of town.
Step Three: Pledge annual spending for maintenance.
Carnegie usually required towns to match 10 percent of his gift annually.
Not all people appreciated Carnegies largesse. He was sometimes criticized for giving "bookless libraries." He usually provided $2 per resident toward library construction, but asked the towns to fill the bookshelves. Some towns found the prospect too expensive.
Other times, objections were more political. Labor unions often lobbied towns to reject a library to protest Carnegie's labor policies. "I would sooner enter a building built with the dirty silver Judas received for betraying Christ than enter a Carnegie library," an overwrought glassworker once commented. 225 communities turned down his money.
Not all Carnegie libraries were well built. After receiving complaints about shoddy construction, Carnegie began sending out standard building plans. Before long, in small towns across the country, a new architectural style, popularly known as "Carnegie Classical," took hold.
Many believed that Carnegie required builders to engrave his name above the entrances to his libraries. This was not true, although he certainly never objected. Upon request, he sent a photograph of himself to hang just inside the main door. The only design element Carnegie specifically asked to be included was "a representation of the rays of a rising sun, and above 'LET THERE BE LIGHT.'"
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