“A library out ranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”
“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.”
In my role as a councillor for the Hillhead Ward, I have been working to support the restoration of Woodside Library, one of the council libraries run by Glasgow Life. During discussions about the history of this building, it came to my attention that it is the largest of the Carnegie libraries of Glasgow. Its importance has been recognised as part of the Woodside Heritage Trail and the building is featured as part of Glasgow’s Doors Open Day Programme.
I think that it is essential to put on record that 13 council libraries were built with grant support from Andrew Carnegie and that there are seven of these building still operating as libraries today. These Council libraries managed by Glasgow Life are Maryhill, Parkhead, Govanhill, Woodside, Dennistoun and Langside. The former Bridgeton Library is now the home for the Glasgow’s Women’s Library.
Three Carnegie libraries have been demolished – these are Anderston, Townhead and Kinning Park. Anderston Library opened on 21 December 1904. The building in MacIntyre Street was the first of Glasgow's Carnegie libraries to disappear when it was demolished along with most of Anderston to make way for the M8 motorway in 1969. A new Anderston branch library opened in 1984 in Berkeley Street, in the Mitchell Library building.Townhead Library was officially opened on 4th July, 1907. After lying in a state of neglect and dereliction in the shadow of the M8 motorway for many years, it was finally demolished in 1998. Kinning Park Library was officially opened on 25th October, 1904. The library closed in 1967 and was used as a store by the Council's Social Work Department until its demolition in 1978.
Former library buildings which have found a new use are Kingston, Springburn and Hutchesontown. Kingston Library was officially opened on 8th September, 1904. The library building finally closed in 1981 after the population had moved away and has been for some years been occupied as facilities provided by the Talbot Association for Glasgow's homeless population. Springburn Library was officially opened on 1st May, 1906. In recent years, it has been used as an Enterprise, Learning and Conference Centre. Hutchesontown Library, Gorbals opened in February 1907. It closed on 31st July, 1964 and was partially occupied as a day nursery before being occupied as offices. The offices are currently available for rent from City Property.
Carnegie Libraries are a significant part of the network of Public libraries which have been at the heart of Glasgow’s communities. They are founded on a powerful sense of equity and justice. These libraries should be acknowledged as key resources to delivery “A Vision for Glasgow Libraries” Strategy. They are helping to support people across the city to access knowledge and learning to help make a better life.
In addition, these building are significant architectural landmarks and cultural assets within local communities across the city. They should be acknowledged as sources of inspiration and catalysts for regeneration and economic development within our local high streets.
There is a project planned to celebrate this legacy of Andrew Carnegie, and support a partnership with heritage groups, and community councils to ensure they are promoted as part of National Libraries Day on 16th February 2017.