April 3 – 9 is National Libraries Week, and we’re celebrating by honoring Utah’s Carnegie Libraries!
We often take for granted our local libraries and all the good things they do for our families and communities. But the world of local libraries hardly existed just over a century ago. That’s when the wealthy industrialist/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie launched what would become the most significant phase of public-library development in Utah and throughout the country.
Carnegie donated more than $56 million to construct some 2,500 libraries worldwide, including 1,679 in the U.S and 23 in Utah. Most were built in the first two decades of the 20th century and most were in small towns. Sixteen Carnegie libraries still stand in Utah, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of their role in promoting literacy, public education in Utah (not to mention the architectural significance of most of them, as well).
Carnegie libraries provided improved and expanded library services in the communities in which they were built. Many communities never had libraries of much substance prior to the Carnegie program. The new Carnegie libraries helped establish standards of library operation and building design that persisted for decades. The Carnegie library program, which ended in 1917, was the only sustained library building movement in Utah until the 1950s and ‘60s.
While Carnegie funds paid for the construction of the buildings, recipient communities were required to provide the books and annual budgets for maintaining the libraries. This contributed significantly to the widespread acceptance of local government responsibility for public libraries.
In celebration of National Library Week and Utah’s Archaeology and Historic Preservation Month, the Department of Community and Cultural Engagement invites you to visit your local historic Carnegie Library and go to bit.ly/UtahAHP2022 to find events near you.