Organization of the month (August 2021): Carnegie Library
In 1910, a Board of Trustees was organized and plans for a building and proposed site were sent to Mr. Carnegie. He agreed to donate $12,500. The limestone structure was designed by St. Louis architect George W. Hellmuth, but the original site deemed unsuitable. A new site was donated by R.C. Kerens, a Eureka Springs investor, but it consisted of a solid stone cliff.
Due to delays, bad weather and the additional costs of excavation, B. J. Rosewater, the President of the Library Board of Trustees, petitioned – and petitioned repeatedly – Mr. Carnegie for additional funds to complete the project. Finally, Mr. Carnegie agreed to increase his donation by $3,000, and the excavation and the building were completed in 1912.
Meanwhile the city administration declined to provide the $1,250 per year needed to operate the Library, galvanizing Mr. Rosewater and others to appeal to the public for Library support. Memberships of $1.00 per year were sold, books and furniture were donated, and a librarian was hired. The Library survived those first difficult years, although it was forced to close during the winter of 1916, due to insufficient funds for fuel and staff. Because many residents wanted the Library and were willing to donate time and funds to insure its prosperity, its doors reopened and by 1921, the Library was open six days a week.
The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. The Classical Revival-style building was constructed of locally quarried stone.
The Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Library is one of four Arkansas library buildings built with funding by Andrew Carnegie. The Fort Smith Carnegie Public Library is now is home to a television station. The Little Rock Carnegie Public Library was demolished. The Conway County Public Library, built with Carnegie funds in 1916, still serves the residents of Morrilton and the surrounding area.
Since 1956, the Library, as a member of the Carroll County Library System, has received county tax funds. In 2000, it joined the Carroll and Madison Library System along with the two other libraries in Carroll County and three in neighboring Madison County.
In this era of rapid change in the world, the Carnegie Library is working hard to meet those challenges and continue the work of providing free access to informational, educational and entertainment materials as well as programming to support our community.
The Friends of the Library’s efforts to renovate the new library garden space have gone a long way to allow the library to provide programming in a safe outdoor setting amid the pandemic, and our board is working diligently to plan for the future of library services with the addition of the Gardens Building. This new space is undergoing many repairs, and has a long way to go yet before it will be ready for the library to use it, but progress is being made.
Why we are supporting it
Libraries mean a lot to us – literacy, learning, and resources accessible to all. Our library serves multiple generations of users. We’ve attended foreign film series, weather spotter training, found free magazines to make vision boards (one hangs in our office still), checked out plenty of books, and even bought a paper bouquet that was made from pages of old books for Wendy’s mom. It’s a great library in our tiny town and we’re honored to be supporting it.