The day before break a small group of us took the bus to Dunfermline, Scotland, to visit the very first Carnegie Library. For those of you not familiar with Carnegie Libraries they were libraries funded in part by wealthy business Andrew Carnegie. Essentially, he provided the start-up capital to get the library up and running but it was up to the library to maintain it for future use. There were other stipulations that went along with money, such as certain architectural details, but that is the basic premise behind a Carnegie Library. What was so special about Dunfermline is not only is it the home of the first Carnegie Library but it was the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie. At age 13 he and his family immigrated to America with nothing but went on to amass a fortune that today would be worth billions.
Being able to visit Dunfermline Public Library was a very special treat indeed as construction was slated to commence to transfer this space into a multimillion dollar museum and gallery. In fact, little remained inside as the books had all been packed away and most of the furnishing removed but what remained was still worth seeing. A bust of Andrew’s mother, Margaret still stood in the corner as if waiting to greet us. Some of the old bookcases still bore the monkey ornamentation carved out at the top. A few plagues and pictures still hung on the wall, including one of Andrew Carnegie. Some old desks still remained and a beautiful ceiling mural still sat undisturbed. But it wasn’t so much about the removable items to me as what couldn’t be removed, like the beautiful ornate staircase, the hidden rooms, the wood paneling, and dare I say, the memories of what once was. It was amazing just to stand where once original occupants and former patrons had stood. As a classmate pointed out, that besides its creator we were the only other people to see the library this way, stripped of everything, which made me feel pretty special. I’ve always said that what looks like an ending is also the beginning of something new; and we fortunate few were privileged to be at Dunfermline Public Library for both.
For more information about the library or to follow the construction process to the new museum and galleries, visit them on the web at http://www.fifedirect.org.uk/atoz/index.cfm?fuseaction=facility.display&facid=0C95F6FA-11D6-467F-BDE5ED42118689F4#about