Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Carnegie's First Academic Library
Although Andrew Carnegie is most noted for his philanthropy as it relates to public library buildings, he also provided funding for the construction of 108 academic libraries in the United States. I was reminded of this by the postcard shown above and by a recent discussion on the listserv of the Library History Round Table. The postcard depicts the Anderson Memorial Library, and the caption on the back reads in part: "First Carnegie Library built west of Mississippi river and first one built on any college campus." The date given on the postcard for its construction is 1901. Although the postcard doesn't identify the college where the library is located, with some research I was able to place the library in Emporia, Kansas. Andrew Carnegie donated $30,000 on January 3, 1900 to the College of Emporia which is now defunct for the construction of a library building, and it was indeed the first Carnegie grant that was given to an academic institution. The Kansas State Library has a section on its website that is based on the book The Carnegie Legacy In Kansas by Allen Gardiner (Kansas State Library, 1985). Although Gardiner's book didn't include information about the academic Carnegie libraries in Kansas, the State Library website has added this information. The portion on the Anderson Memorial Library provides the very interesting story of how a personal connection between Andrew Carnegie and Colonel John Byars Anderson, for whom the library is named, led to a grant from Carnegie for the library building. At Carnegie's request the following inscription was added to the building: "The John B. Anderson Memorial Library erected A.D. 1901by Andrew Carnegie in grateful remembrance of Mr. Anderson who opened his own private library for the working boys of Allegheny City, of whom Mr. Carnegie was one."
The College of Emporium was closed in 1974, and the campus including the library became part of The Way College of Emporia. The library was restored in 1986 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. After the demise of The Way College of Emporia in 1991, the Anderson Library was given to Emporia State University to house its archives. Since then the ESU archives have been moved to the University Library, and a 2008 news article indicated that the Carnegie building may be for sale.