13 March 2006

Hats Off to You, Mr. Carnegie

I have often stated that the true heroes in the world are teachers and librarians -- those valiant guardians of knowledge who offer a guiding hand to every person who wants to know more.

As a gifted child in school, I benefited from teachers who were willing to spend a little extra time helping me learn more than the lesson plan; as a journalist, I owe many great thanks to the librarians who helped me research in those heady days before the internet.

So, it is with that preface that I mention it was 105 years ago yesterday that Andrew Carnegie offered New York more than $5,000,000 to build 65 branch libraries: a small part of the many more millions he donated to build 2500 libraries around the world -- including one just a couple miles from my home in Phoenix.

That library in Phoenix -- opened in 1908 at a cost of $25,000 -- still stands, although it is now a museum. It was the first major library in Phoenix, and served that function until 1952 -- a few months before the new central library opened in 1953. That library was, in turn, replaced in 1995 by the brand-spanking new copper-clad super-state-of-the-art library about a mile south. It remains one of my happy places.

So, hats off to you, Mr. Carnegie, for using your wealth to help spread wealth of another kind.

The illustration is by Matt Hinrichs.

1 comment:

Mass Bradley said...

The card catalogs! That smooooth blonde wood and shiny nickel hardware!
The oversize clubchairs, in red leather!
My Very Own library card, in sturdy cardstock the color of butter, with My Name on it. Mine!
The almondy smell of untouched women and rhuemy old men when it rained on Saturday mornings and my folks would drop me off in the Dramatic Arts section while they had lunch at WagonWheel Cafe next door.
I was nine and ate through every play they had, starving but never sated...
(My own card catalog, club chair and ancient paper library card are now just 3 feet away as I write this.)