One of the treats of being in Pittsburgh at night is a stroll along the Mount Washington Overlook. You can take the incline up the 450 feet or you can drive up and park along the street.
While you’re there, pay attention to some of the architecture. I’m especially fond of this Carnegie Library. The Mount Washington community formed a library association in 1882 and a reading room six years later.
Industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie supported the efforts to build a proper library, funding this nice building which opened May 31, 1900.
The Pittsburgh titan of steel funded 1,689 libraries in the United States and more in other countries. Along the way, he created a revolutionary new self service model. Before this, library employees would retrieve requested books rather than allowing the patron to browse and select their own.
This reduced operating costs and opened a new world of accessibility for readers. He actually introduced this model in Pittsburgh’s neighborhood branch libraries that were built after the city’s main library. It appears this was one that used the new self service model.
I have such respect and appreciation for Carnegie’s support of access to books and reading. Where would our society be if not for the resources provided by our libraries? It’s one of the last places in the world where you can exist, use materials and find enrichment completely for free.
He died in 1919. In the final years of his life, Carnegie gave away $350 million dollars. In modern money, that would be about $5.5 billion. The man was filthy rich but he thought it more important to use his money for philanthropic interests rather than hold onto more money than he could spend in a lifetime.
When you think about the good he did for small towns and neighborhoods across the country, the good he did for the masses is awe inspiring. The next time you pass by a Carnegie library, be sure to pause a moment and say a word of thanks.