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The most noted Renaissance style library in Scotland is the Ewart Library in Dumfries, which was officially opened in 1904 by the donor of the site, Miss McKie. Mr and Mrs Carnegie also attended the ceremony, where Andrew Carnegie was presented with the freedom of the burgh.

Ewart Library, Dumfries

Ewart Library, Dumfries.

The library building is an elaborately decorated two-storey red sandstone structure, with relief carvings of figures personifying Knowledge, Music, Art and Truth situated over the end windows. It is built in the Renaissance style with a seven bay frontage finished with polished granite Ionic columns and pilasters. The architect, Alan. B. Crombie used a style which was very popular in Scotland at the time, and variations on the same theme can be seen throughout the country. 

In September 2004 the Ewart Library celebrated its centenary. Local children and library staff, dressed in old-fashioned Edwardian outfits, marched through the town before returning to the library for a tea party.

William Ewart

When Carnegie offered £10,000 for the Dumfries library building in 1898, he had suggested that the library be named after William Ewart (left), the former Member of Parliament for Dumfries. Ewart was responsible for the introduction of the Free Libraries Acts of 1850 in England, and 1853 in Scotland, allowing public libraries to be supported by local taxation for the first time. This led directly to the creation of public libraries in some enlightened places even before Carnegie began his donations.
The two great cities of North West England, Manchester and Liverpool, were the first to benefit from the legislation, with the Campfield Library Manchester opening on 2nd September 1852, followed by the Liverpool library on 18th October in the same year.



 Annan Library, Dumfriesshire

Annan Library, Dumfriesshire.

Further along the Solway Firth, the library in Annan was also built with the familiar Dumfriesshire red sandstone, much of which was transported to Glasgow in its boom years of construction at the beginning of the 20th century.
Annan’s Carnegie library was designed by George Washington Browne who was also responsible for the Central Library in Edinburgh as well as the new libraries in Kelso, Jedburgh, Bo'ness and Ayr (below). Andrew Carnegie had provided £4250, which also paid for the library’s fixtures and fittings.
The library was opened on 11th October 1906 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Loreburn, who originally came from the area. In his speech to the assembled guests at the grand dinner aterwards, he was quoted as saying that “the real enemy of the human race is ignorance”.
Lord Loreburn had been bestowed with the freedom of the burgh of Annan by Provost Thomson. The centenary celebrations in October 2006 were attended by the Provost’s grandson, John Thomson.


Carnegie Library, Ayr

Carnegie Library, Ayr.

One of the earliest libraries of this style was the Carnegie Library in Ayr, which superseded an earlier subscription library dating from 1870. The trustees of the subscription library had invited Andrew Carnegie to give a lecture to the members in 1890. Carnegie declined this invitation, but instead offered £10,000 towards a free library for the town.

The two-storey library is built in local red sandstone to a lavishly embellished Italian Renaissance design by Campbell Douglas of Glasgow.
The seven bay façade features a central entrance leading to a large stairwell which contains a nine pane stained glass window displaying a portrait of Andrew Carnegie. The window also contains monograms of Andrew and Louise - AC & LW, as well as Carnegie's ever present motto "Let there be light".

The library was officially opened on 2nd September 1893.

Perspective Drawing of Carnegie Library, Ayr

Perspective Drawing of Carnegie Library, Ayr.


Burntisland Library

Burntisland Library, Fife.

Burntisland Library has a much more English feel than other Carnegie libraries built in Scotland. It would not look out of place amongst the fastidious conservative architecture seen in the university towns of southern England.
26 architects entered the competition to design the library which was won by William Williamson of Kirkcaldy with his Anglified Renaissance design. The library was then built on a site donated by James Shepherd of Kirkcaldy.
Burntisland is situated on the north bank of the Firth of Forth, close to Andrew Carnegie's birthplace in Dunfermline. Carnegie formally opened the library on 18th September 1907, while he was visiting Scotland to address the annual meeting of the Library Association. He was presented with the freedom of the burgh at the ceremony.
The following day, when the library was first opened to the public, the police had to control the crowds who wished to use their new library.


Motherwell Library

Motherwell Library, Lanarkshire

Motherwell's Carnegie library is situated in the centre of town, opposite the town hall. Carnegie had provided £12,000 for the library's construction.
It is a larger building than is usual for a town of Motherwell's size, but it would also have served the expanding Lanarkshire settlements which were surrounding the town at the beginning of the century.

The architects were the Edinburgh based partnership of Greig, Fairbairn and MacNiven. The library was built with cream sandstone to a fashionable Edwardian design.

The building was officially opened on 5th April 1906 by Dr Hew Morrison on behalf of Andrew Carnegie. Provost Purdie thanked Dr Morrison and Andrew Carnegie on behalf of the people of Motherwell.


Carnegie Library, Coatbridge

Carnegie Library, Coatbridge, Lanarkshire

The Carnegie Library in Academy Street, Coatbridge is housed in a conventional red sandstone building which Andrew Carnegie provided £15,000 to construct. The façade is enlivened with carved shields on the side wings and a relief displaying the town's coat of arms over the main entrance.
The buildings's architect, Alexander Cullen, was very popular in the area and his works can still be seen throughout Lanarkshire. He did however venture further afield to design the library and Art Gallery in the English seaside town of Blackpool.

The library was officially opened on 7th June 1906 by Andrew Carnegie in person. He received the ceremonial freedom of burgh of Coatbridge from Provost McCosh during the celebrations. Earlier in the day he had visited the nearby town of Airdrie, which is home to one of the world's first Carnegie libraries.
In his speech to people of Coatbridge, Carnegie mentioned that in the early days opposition to free libraries was strong: "the charge was brought that this was Socialism in its worst form. But they had got over that stage bravely, and now there was not a community in Scotland that had not its public library and there would not be any in America very soon that had not its public library."

Engraving of Carnegie Library, Coatbridge

Engraving of Carnegie Library, Coatbridge.


West Calder Library

West Calder Library, West Lothian

West Calder Library, which opened on 20th November 1904, features a quite fancy version of Edwardian Renaissance design. The library's architect, William Baillie, was only 29 years old at the time of its completion and had not long started business on his own account from offices in Hope Street, Glasgow. The opening ceremony was performed by Lord Rosebery, who had been an unpopular British Prime Minister for a short period in 1894 / 1895.
Unlike many of the similar style libraries in urban locations, the West Calder building is surrounded by landscaped garden grounds, which add to the overall charm of the place.

Plaque at West Calder Library

When the library was completed, the plaque (right) was positioned above the new Ladies Reading Room, commemorating the fact that West Calder had enjoyed library facilities for many years before the opening of the Carnegie building in 1904.
The text reads " In commemoration of West Calder Public Library instituted about the end of the eighteenth century, resuscitated in 1841, maintained and managed voluntarily until 1904 when 1200 volumes were transferred to West Calder Free Library with which it was amalgamated."


Anderston Library

Anderston Library, Glasgow.

This was Glasgow's first free standing library. It has a two-storey façade built to a symmetrical Edwardian Renaissance design which shows elements of art nouveau. The architects, John Stewart & George Paterson, gave it a prominent highly decorated central bay with three sets of contemporary styled windows either side.
Anderston Library was the first of the city's Carnegie libraries to be demolished when it disappeared in 1969 as part of the redevelopment of the area.
The modern replacement, which opened in 1984, is situated within the Mitchell Library extension which was completed at the beginning of 1980, built on the site of the former St. Andrews Halls.

The library was officially opened on 21st December, 1904 by Councillor William Bilsland, who was later to become Lord Provost of Glasgow.


Hutchesontown Library

Hutchesontown Library, Gorbals, Glasgow.

This was the final and the most decorative of James. R. Rhind's Glasgow libraries, built in the French Renaissance style, completely different from any of his earlier Baroque buildings. It has an attractive square tower, crowned with an ornately decorated sandstone dome and surrounded with 3 smaller domed turrets. The 2-storey frontage and the tower are covered in elaborate carvings and figures in keeping with the overall theme of the building.
Local businessman John Woyka donated a collection of 112 natural history books to the new library in February 1907. It closed on 31st July, 1964 and was partially occupied as a day nursery before being occupied as offices by Gorbals Initiative in 1994.

The library was officially opened on 17th November, 1906 by Baillie John Battersby.
Its current use is as offices.


Alexander.B.McDonald

Pollokshields Library in Glasgow, like the earlier Kingston Library, was designed "in-house" rather than by a private architect. The plans were prepared by Thomas Gilmour of the Office of Public Works, supervised by the City Engineer & Surveyor, Alexander. B. McDonald (left). The final result is pleasing to the eye even if it does lack the panache of J.R.Rhind's libraries.

The library was officially opened on 20th February, 1907 by Sir John Stirling Maxwell, who was an extensive local landowner and donor of the site.

Pollokshields Library

Pollokshields Library, Glasgow

The regular two-storey red sandstone façade was built to a much more formal style than the free flowing forms used in some of Glasgow's earlier libraries.

The front has been brightened up by the use of carvings and motifs. Internally the library is very spacious and is well lit from the two streets which it faces.
Its current use remains as a branch library.

Edwardian view of Pollokshields Library, Glasgow

Edwardian view of Pollokshields Library, Glasgow


Possilpark Library

Possilpark Library, Glasgow.

This library was the first to be built with the additional funds supplied by Carnegie in 1908 to complete the programme of branch libraries in the city. It was designed by George Simpson of Glasgow.
The neat single storey building occupys a corner site, displaying two distinct frontages. The Italianate design has an attractive ornamented entrance on the main frontage to Allander Street.
Internally the library was decorated by four panels by students of the Glasgow School of Art at a cost of £50. These are still in very good condition and worth a visit.

The library was officially opened on 15th March, 1913 by the Lord Provost, Daniel Macauley Stevenson. Its current use remains as a branch library.
Its current use remains as a branch library.


Langside Library

Langside Library, Glasgow.

This was the final Carnegie library of Glasgow, being completed after the outbreak of the Great War, which marked the end of an era in architectural as well as in many other respects.
Like Possilpark, it was designed by George Simpson.
The single storey building has a plain though agreeable symmetrical frontage in three bays. The city's coat of arms is featured above the central entrance; otherwise the façade is relatively unadorned in comparison with the earlier Glasgow libraries.

The library was officially opened on 3rd February, 1915 by the Lord Provost, Thomas Dunlop.
Its current use remains as a branch library.


Dome at Govanhill Library

 Introduction
The Carnegie Libraries


 Andrew Carnegie
His Scottish Connections


 Early Carnegie Libraries
The First in the World


 American Libraries
A Comparative Study


 Scottish Architecture
Home-grown Style


 Edwardian Renaissance
Architectural Elegance


 Baroque Extravagance
J.R. Rhind in Glasgow


 Library Architecture
Diverse Designs


 Inside the Libraries
Photographs from 1907


 Carnegie Hero
John Blaikie in 1911


 Exhibition
Landmarks of Literacy


All original artwork, photography and text © Gerald Blaikie 2016
Unauthorised reproduction of any image on this website is not permitted.

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