It's Your Library; Check it Out!
The name Andrew Carnegie may not mean a lot to you, but historically, he was a gigantic friend of libraries. Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist, and philanthropist. He led the expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century and became one of the richest Americans in history. During the last 18 years of his life, he became a leading philanthropist in the United States and in the British Empire giving away $350 million (that would be roughly $65 billion in today’s dollars) to charities, foundations, and universities – almost 90 percent of his fortune. In his 1889 article titled: "The Gospel of Wealth," Carnegie called on the rich to use their wealth to improve society, and stimulated a wave of philanthropy.
One of Carnegie’s greatest gifts was money given for the building of libraries via something called the “Carnegie Formula” in which communities were challenged to build, fund, and sustain libraries in their communities. Over a 19 year period (1883-1929) close to 1,700 libraries were built in communities throughout the United States. I grew up in Sheboygan, and we had a Carnegie Library Building for many years. While hundreds of these library buildings have been adapted for use as museums, community centers, office buildings, residences or other uses over the years, more than half of those in the United States still serve their communities as libraries over a century after their construction.
I think about those Carnegie buildings when I look at our library building and wonder what the future holds for us. For the last two years, we have been trying to be creative with where and how we store our collection. We’ve purchased new book shelves and have shoe-horned them throughout the lower level to create more storage space. But space is at a premium, and I’m slowly running out. When I visit other libraries, I often find myself insanely jealous at the amount of space they have (thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s library…is that a commandment?) and realize that the Staff and I must again weed and dispose of materials to make more space in our library building. It is an ongoing problem that will not be going away soon.
Lest you think I’m complaining, I’m not…because we are blessed to have this Library. We have a supportive and concerned Library Board; we have devoted and hard working volunteers; we have a marvelous Friends of the Library Group, and we have the best Staff around. While we don’t have a Carnegie Building, we fulfill the Carnegie Formula week-after-week by providing “darn-good” service! We also do the best we can at keeping this library building in shape, and I have the Village DPW crew to thank for that as well.
Next time you visit the East Troy Post Office, take a look at the ceiling…it looks exactly like the Library ceiling…perhaps the same architect/builder? I also thought you might like to know that Edgerton is the only Library left in our Library System that still has and uses a Carnegie Building.
Lastly (at least for this week), I would like to extend my thanks to all of our Patrons who are wearing face masks when they come in. I know it is a pain, but thank you for having concern for everyone’s health!