Dakota Datebook

Fargo’s “Carnegie Library”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Fargo’s first public library building opened on this date in 1903. The library, heavily funded by businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, “…stood on the northeast corner of Roberts Street and First Avenue North” for nearly seven decades.

Prior to the opening of the Carnegie library, Fargo’s library had been operating since 1900 out of a room in the Masonic Temple building, with books donated by community members. The city of Fargo submitted an application for a Carnegie library grant in 1901, and was approved for a grant of $20,000 on March 6th of that year. In 1905, the North Dakota Agricultural College (now NDSU) and the Fargo College also secured grants for Carnegie libraries. In total, eleven Carnegie libraries were built in the state.

As a Carnegie Library, Fargo’s public library was one of 2,509 libraries built with funds from the wealthy steel baron. Carnegie, a Scottish-American immigrant, believed in a “society based on merit,” in which anyone could become successful with hard work and the right tools. A lover of reading and knowledge himself, he considered it his legacy to help provide those tools to the American public in the form of books and libraries. He built his first library in his hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1883, and his first American library in Braddock, Pennsylvania, in 1889. Soon after, he initiated his public library program across the nation, accepting grant applications from communities of all sizes. In order to be considered for a Carnegie library, communities had to demonstrate the need for a library, provide a building site, guarantee an annual sum to support the library, and ensure free service to the public. He even went so far as to open ‘colored libraries’ in southern states that mandated segregation, in order to ensure access to everyone, regardless of race.

In 1930, an addition was added to the Fargo Library, nearly doubling its size. Although the addition expanded the life of the original library, the aging building became plagued with structural problems. The Carnegie library served the community until 1968, when a new building was opened on 3rd Street North. Unfortunately, the original Carnegie building was demolished in 1970.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_library http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Carnegie_libraries_in_North_Dakota

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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