The Carnegie Formula and Early Carnegie Libraries

By Glenn A. Walsh, Life Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library
May, 1998

Of the original grant, $93,000 was reserved for an Endowment Fund for the Library. Of the 2,509 libraries Andrew Carnegie constructed throughout the English-speaking world, the Andrew Carnegie Free Library was the fourth of only five libraries he actually endowed; the home communities, of these libraries, were not required to publicly subsidize their libraries(although, such subsidy was encouraged). All other towns, which received a library gift from Andrew Carnegie, were required to subsidize their library by an annual amount that, at least, equalled ten-percent of the cost of the library building, an arrangement soon dubbed "The Carnegie Formula."

Although Carnegie Institute(better known, today, as The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh) was endowed, neither The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, nor the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny(now the Allegheny Regional Branch of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh) was endowed. In the case of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the City of Pittsburgh entered into a contract, with Andrew Carnegie, that subsidized their library at the rate of $40,000 per year. The City increased this subsidy many times over, in almost one hundred years time. In 1995, funding for libraries in Allegheny County became the responsibility of the Allegheny Regional Asset District, a special-purpose unit of government which administers a one-percent sales and use tax, added onto the six-percent state sales and use tax, in Allegheny County. Despite the fact that the Regional Asset District had relieved the City of the need to fund The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the City continues to give the Library $40,000 per year, to meet their historic obligation to Andrew Carnegie.

The first Carnegie Library was built in Dunfermline, Scotland(1881), Mr. Carnegie's native city; an endowment was given with the library. This gift was so well received that Mr. Carnegie made plans to give libraries to other towns. The second Carnegie Library was given to Braddock, Pennsylvania(1889), which housed one of Carnegie Steel Company's major steel mills, the Edgar Thomson Works. Since this library primarily served the employees of the Carnegie Steel Company, and their families, the company funded the library.

The third Carnegie library was given to Mr. Carnegie's adopted hometown of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, across the river from Downtown Pittsburgh; annexed to Pittsburgh in 1907, Allegheny is now known as Pittsburgh's North Side. The Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny(now the Allegheny Regional Branch of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, located in the North Side's Allegheny Center complex, next to The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science) was dedicated by U.S. President Benjamin Harrison on February 20, 1890. Unlike the first two library gifts, the City of Allegheny was required to subsidize this library, making it the first publicly-funded Carnegie library in the world.

The City of Pittsburgh had been offered a library, at the same general time as had Allegheny; however, Pittsburgh's legal department had determined that state law would have to be changed, for the City to accept the library gift under the terms of "The Carnegie Formula." Once state law was changed to permit Pittsburgh to accept the library gift, Andrew Carnegie decided his original offer was too small and proceeded to give Pittsburgh a library, music hall, natural history museum, and art gallery. The original, combined Carnegie Institute/Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh building opened in 1895. Andrew Carnegie gave money for a large addition to the structure in 1907. The Scaife Gallery, addition to the Museum of Art portion of the building, was added in the late 1960s.

Despite Andrew Carnegie's view that the community should support a library(a view enforced by "The Carnegie Formula"), three other library gifts were given, without this requirement: Carnegie Library of Homestead, Homestead(now Munhall), Pennsylvania(1898); Andrew Carnegie Free Library, Carnegie, Pennsylvania(1901); and the Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne, Duquesne, Pennsylvania(1904 to 1968). As in the case of the Braddock Carnegie Library, the libraries in Homestead and Duquesne were built to serve the employees of Carnegie Steel Company mills in those towns, and their faamilies. In the beginning, as was the case in Braddock, the company paid for the operation of the Carnegie Library of Homestead.

However, in 1901, Andrew Carnegie sold the company to J.P. Morgan, of New York City, and the United States Steel Corporation(now titled "United States Steel Group," a subsidiary of USX Corporation) was formed. At the conclusion of the sale, many of Andrew Carnegie's business partners became instant millionares. And, Andrew Carnegie, himself, became the richest man in the world!

To take care of the libraries in the three Monongahela Valley towns, Andrew Carnegie set-up an endowment of one million dollars, to be shared among the the three libraries. This endowment was managed by a Board comprised, primarily, of officials of the U.S. Steel Corporation.

In the 1960s, the Braddock and Duquesne libraries were sold to the school districts in those towns. The Braddock Carnegie Library stayed open for awhile, but was closed for much of the 1970s and 1980s due to the bulding's dilapidated condition and lack of sufficient funding. A community effort reopened the library in the mid-1980s. The Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne was razed, in 1968, to make-way for a school district annex. However, when the school district learned that the construction of a such an annex would result in a partial loss of state funding, the project was quickly dropped. Apartment buildings now occupy the former library property. Although the Braddock Carnegie Library is operating, once again, since this library was officially sold-off by the Board of the Endowment for the Monongahela Valley libraries, the Carnegie Library of Homestead is the only library that now has legal claim to this Endowment, the current value of which is approximately $1.8 million.

Copyright 1998-1999, Glenn A. Walsh, All Rights Reserved

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