Diverse Designs of the Libraries

The Carnegie libraries of Scotland show a great variety of architectural styles, many of which have been hyridised so that they cannot easily be categorised.
There are examples of classical and classically influenced designs which are common throughout the world.
The breadth of this assortment of building forms can be seen in the libraries shown below.

Kinning Park Library

Kinning Park Library, Glasgow

The building style adopted for Kinning Park library is more akin to the extravagant Scots Baronial mansion houses in nearby Pollokshields than to Glasgow public buildings of its time. It also shows elements of French Rennaisance and local tenemental architecture in an unusal combination.
The architect, Donald Bruce, was a partner in the firm of Hay & Bruce, as well as being the Burgh Surveyor. He was also the architect of the massive neo-classical Co-operative building in Morrison Street, Glasgow.

Provost Thomas McMillan

This library was officially opened on 25th October, 1904 by Provost Thomas McMillan (right) in one of the final events of the burgh of Kinning Park which had a short independent existence of a mere 34 years, from September 1871 until November 1905.
The library building was built with a grant of £5000 in 1901 from Andrew Carnegie to the burgh council, but a year after its opening Kinning Park was absorbed into the city and the library became a Glasgow branch.
The library closed in 1967 and was used as a store by the Council's Social Work Department until its demolition in 1978.

Coldside Library, Dundee

Coldside Library, Dundee

Coldside library in northern Dundee is a novel variation from the classical norm, with its long single storey curved frontage finished with elaborate end bays.
James Thomson, who had been appointed City Architect in 1904, designed all of Dundee's Carnegie libraries with the exception of Arthurstone which had been started by his predecessor. Thomson thought that neo-classicism was the correct style to maintain civic dignity, and he used a unique interpretation of his ideas with Coldside library.
Thomson was also an early pioneer of town planning and the modern thinking about cities that accompanied the new century. He had idealistic views about leaving beautiful planned cities for future generations. His libraries and other public buildings went some way towards achieving a planned order in early twentieth century industrial Dundee.

The site to build the library was donated by Charles Barrie, a former Lord Provost of the city, whose family home had previously occupied the site. When the library was officially opened on 22nd October 1908, Barrie was asked to perform the opening ceremony, which was also attended by Hew Morrison representing Andrew Carnegie. There was a banquet afterwards in the Victoria Art Galleries hosted by Lord Provost Longair.

St Roque's Library, Dundee

St Roque's Library, Dundee

St Roque's Library was built on vacant ground at Blackscroft, Dundee, owned by the Town Council.
The site was laid out as a landscaped garden in the Italian style, in an attempt to upgrade what was described at the time as a "sordid district". Many Edwardians held the belief that by improving a district you could improve the people who lived there; they may even have been right!
The library was used as a reading room and delivery station for any of the 100,000 books held by the Dundee Central Library at the Albert Memorial Institute.
James Thomson, Dundee's City Architect, produced a design with the library as an integral part of the Mediterranean terrace and garden, featuring a fountain as well as a sundial among the trees and flowers.
The library was opened on 9th December, 1910 by a Mrs Urquhart of Dundee.
Its current use is as a night club.

Kingston Library

Kingston Library, Glasgow

This was the first Carnegie library to open in Glasgow, and was the only one to share accommodation with other occupiers, namely the Kingston Halls and Police Station. It was designed by R.W. Horn of the Office of Public Works and A. B. McDonald the City Engineer & Surveyor.
The library is situated on the eastern end of the elegant red sandstone Public Halls, to which it gives the appearance of being somewhat of an afterthought. There is a scholarly figure placed above the library entrance.
The building finally closed in 1981 after the population had moved away and has been for some years been occupied as a night shelter for Glasgow's ever-present homeless population.

The library was officially opened on 8th September, 1904 by the Lord Provost, Sir John Ure Primrose.
Its current use is as a night shelter.

Stornoway Carnegie Library courtesy Comhairle Nan Eilan Siar

Stornoway Carnegie Library, Isle of Lewis

Like Kinning Park, the library at Stornoway in the Western Isles did not have an exclusive building dedicated for the purpose. The library was situated in the Town Hall which was built in 1905. Andrew Carnegie contributed £3000 towards the reading room which opened in 1906 and the Lending Library which followed in 1907.
The turreted structure was designed by John Robertson of Inverness in a loosely continental style. It was built of local red sandstone finished with light cream dressings at the doors and windows. The Town Hall closed in 1979 for redevelopment, leaving the library without a permanent home until 23rd March 1999 when a new building opened nearby.
The above illustration and the information regarding the library, was kindly supplied by David Fowler, Senior Librarian, Stornoway.

Maryhill Library, Glasgow

Maryhill Library, Glasgow

This library occupies a two storey neo-classical building squeezed between the adjoining tenements.
It was designed by James. R. Rhind to a completely different pattern than his Baroque libraries built at the same time.
The upper storey has 3 arched windows flanked by coupled Ionic columns. The ornate recessed entrance is topped by a group of statues portraying a mother reading to her children.

The library was officially opened on 4th September, 1905 by Councillor Charles. J. Cleland.
Its current use remains as a branch library.

Clydebank Library

Clydebank Library, Dunbartonshire

The competition to design Clydebank's Carnegie library was won by A. McInnes Gardner, who had trained under James Miller, who was the architect of the quaint St. Enoch Subway Station in Glasgow's city centre.
The library has a symmetrical seven-bay neo-classical frontage with a central entrance, flanked on each side by highly decorative Ionic columns. It was constructed with a warm gold coloured sandstone, which has been cleaned of the town's industrial grime to reveal its original fine colour.

The library was badly damaged by German bombs during the Clydebank blitz of March 1941, when 11,000 books were lost from the consequent damage. The library was fully restored by 1950 and there are no traces of this damage today.
The original librarian Harry Pincott, had remained in post from 1913 until his death in 1945.

The library was opened in 1st October 1913.
Its current use remains as a branch library.

Falkirk Library, Stirlingshire

Andrew Carnegie donated £5000 for the library, which opened in 1902.
The library building has an unusual design with a twin gabled Gothic façade, which shows very little classical influences.

It is constructed in red sandstone, which is unusual for public buildings in this area, where the local quarries produce cream and grey sandstones.

Springburn Library, Glasgow

Springburn Library, Glasgow

Springburn library is in an unusual pavilion style, quite unlike any of the other Glasgow Carnegie libraries.
The spacious interior enjoys lots of natural light from a glass dome similar to those at Woodside Anderston and Townhead.
The architect, William. B. Whitie also designed Glasgow's Mitchell Library, although the Baroque influences seen in the Mitchell are not so evident at Springburn.
The site was donated by Neilson Reid & Co., Engineers. It had previously been part of their Hydepark Locomotive Works.
Cowlairs Co-op gave the new library £50 to purchase books on engineering and local industries. Springburn has traditionally been a centre for heavy industry.

Bailie Patrick O'Hare

The library was officially opened on 1st May, 1906 by Bailie Patrick O'Hare (right) who was Glasgow's first Roman Catholic magistrate since the Reformation. O'Hare originally hailed from County Monaghan in Ireland, before he settled in Glasgow.

In recent years the library building housed Springburn museum which featured the area’s industrial past. The museum closed in March 2001 due to lack of funding, arousing great controversy in the local press.

Townhead Library, Glasgow

Townhead Library, Glasgow

This was the last library to be built with Carnegie's 1901 grant to the city of Glasgow, and marked the end of an amazing 3-year expansion to the city's library system.
It was built to an Italian themed design, with a pedimented north bay which had a bush motif placed in the stonework. There was an upper balustrade similar to those at Springburn and Woodside with two statues placed in niches along the line of the parapet. The reading room had a most attractive arched ceiling with rooflights, while the lending library had an ornate glass dome overhead.
The architect, John Fairweather, was later to specialise in cinemas and theatres.

The library was officially opened on 4th July, 1907 by Sir James Fleming.
After lying in a state of neglect and dereliction in the shadow of the M8 motorway for many years, Townhead Library was finally demolished in 1998.

Carnegie Libraries of Scotland: Architecture & History
Andrew Carnegie

The Carnegie Libraries

 Andrew Carnegie
His Scottish connections

 Early Carnegie Libraries
The first in the world

 American Libraries
A comparative study

 Scottish Architecture
Unique libraries

Edwardian architecture

J.R. Rhind in Glasgow

 Library Architecture
Diverse designs

 Inside the Libraries
Photographs from 1907

 Carnegie Hero
John Blaikie in 1911

Landmarks of Literacy


 [Top of page]