Carnegie Libraries - Scottish Style

There are many Carnegie libraries which could only be found in Scotland, where the building materials and sources of architectural inspiration are unique.
Whereas the Classical and classically influenced styles can be seen throughout the world, Scottish building patterns are very rarely duplicated elsewhere.
The libraries illustrated below give an insight into the extent of this architectural variety.

Stirling Central Library,

Stirling Central Library, Stirlingshire

This library is a superb example of Scots Baronial architecture by Harvey Ramsay Taylor of Edinburgh
The intentionally asymmetrical design is cleverly balanced, with the main feature being the massive round tower at the corner. The remainder of the façade is highly decorated with many intricate details.
This building illustrates the attempts by many of the architects of the time to revive the older Scottish style, and to move away from classical influences. Taylor's use of Ionic columns at the doorway, however, shows how ubiquitous classical elements could still be.

The foundation stone was laid by Mrs Louise Carnegie on 11th October 1902, after Andrew Carnegie had received the freedom of the burgh. The library was officially opened on 6th February 1904 by Provost Thomson, who then sent a cablegram to Mr. Carnegie in New York City.
Its current use is as the central library for Stirling Council.

Kirkwall Library,

Kirkwall Library, Orkney Isles

This is Scotland's most northern and most remote Carnegie library. It was however opened by Andrew Carnegie, who after his retirement lived much of his time at his mansion at Skibo, which is in the county of Sutherland, at the very north of the Scottish mainland. Carnegie crossed the Pentland Firth by the mail steamer to receive the freedom of the burgh of Kirkwall and to open the new library.
Kirkwall had the oldest public library in Scotland, dating from 1683, the Publick Bibliothick of Kirkwall. The books from this collection are today kept by the University Library, Aberdeen.
The two storey building was designed by J Malcolm Baikie. The library is built with local Walliwall flagstone in Scottish style. The portico is of sandstone from the island of Eday, while the roof slates were imported from Norway.

The library was officially opened by Andrew Carnegie on 9th September 1909.

Jedburgh Library

Jedburgh Library, Roxburghshire

This is one of the earlier Carnegie libraries, dating from 1900. Jedburgh is the former county town of Roxburghshire, and is just 10 miles from the English border.
The library was designed in the Scots Renaissance style with a modern touch by George Washington Browne, who was also the architect of the library in nearby Kelso. The façade's main feature is the large arched window facing the Castlegate which gives the library a unique character.

Rutherglen Library

Rutherglen Library, Lanarkshire

This library was built with funds amounting to £7,500 given by Andrew Carnegie to the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen in 1905.
The architects were Sinclair and Ballantine of Glasgow, who designed a library with similar bay windows, height and style of a typical Glasgow tenement building.
Situated on the busy main street, the three-storey library blends into the tenements of the surrounding streets.
Although the top floor was used for the Librarians flat, there are still plenty of decorative touches to distinguish the library as a public building rather than a housing block, with the recessed entrance being particularly attractive.

Provost Joseph Johnston

The library was officially opened on 25th September, 1907 by Provost Joseph Johnstone (right), who was presented with a golden key by the architect, Mr. Sinclair.
Rutherglen was granted the status of Royal Burgh by King David I of Scotland in 1126, but it no longer has its own Council and Provost. It is now in the area covered by South Lanarkshire Council which is based in Hamilton. The library is currently operated by that council.
From 1975, throughout the 20 years of the existence of Strathclyde Regional Council, Rutherglen was part of the city of Glasgow. It never lost its separate identity in the eyes of the local population however, and was returned to Lanarkshire when the Regional Councils were abolished.

Maybole Library

Maybole Library, Ayrshire

In 1905 Andrew Carnegie gifted the small sea-side town of Maybole a sum of £2500 towards the erection of a library and recreation rooms. The additional cost of providing the recreation rooms and books for the library was met by public subscription.
The library is situated opposite Maybole Castle which dates from the late 1500‘s. It blends in well with the ancient turreted tower and is built with similar cream coloured stone. The library occupies a prominent corner site on a steep slope, which adds to the uniqueness of James Kennedy Hunter's Scots Renaissance design.
The foundation stone was laid by the local freemasons at a ceremony in 1905, with the town band leading Provost James Ramsay and the whole population of Maybole in procession.
After falling into a state of disrepair, the library has been unoccupied for many years, unlike the castle which is still in use as offices.
In August 2000, the local council pledged £560,530 to refurbish the Carnegie building.

Kelso Library

Kelso Library, Roxburghshire

Carnegie contributed £3500 for this library which is situated in a little courtyard. It is of rather domestic proportions more akin to the Carnegie Libraries of rural Ireland, where the libraries can sometimes be not much bigger than the surrounding houses.
George Washington Browne's design is a combination of French Renaissance with Scottish touches to make the library fit in with the other buildings of the town. It was constructed in cream sandstone similar to that used for the older buildings of Kelso.
There are three attractively shaped dormer windows in the roofspace, providing staff accommodation within the building.
The entrance features a carved panel in the stonework above the door showing rays of sunlight from an enlarged sun and Carnegie's "Let there be Light" motto, as used in his personal bookplate.

The library was opened on 16th May 1906 with a ceremonial key presented to Carnegie’s representative, Hew Morrison, by Provost Crichton Smith.
Its current use remains as a branch library.

Hawick Library

Hawick Library, Roxburghshire

This library occupies a corner site on top of a hill with asymmetrical frontages sloping away from a central tower. The nature of the site no doubt contributed to the unusual design of the architect, J Nicholl Scott.
It is built in a dull reddish sandstone which now requires cleaning to reveal its true colour. The entrance features the library's title in Art-Nouveau script in the stone plate over the doorway, showing hints of the modernity which was prevalent in Scotland at the turn of the century when the Carnegie libraries were being designed. The entrance itself is more in the traditional Scots style.

The library was opened in 1904.
Its current use remains as a branch library.

Dumbarton Library

Dumbarton Library, Dunbartonshire

This little library was built in a much smaller scale than the larger, more grandiose libraries in the surrounding areas of Glasgow and Clydebank. Its modest size allowed it to be designed in a neat domestic style which displays many of the mock-Renaissance features which were fashionable in the houses of the well-to-do in Edwardian Scotland.The architect was William Reid of Church Street, Dumbarton.
It was constructed with a light sandstone from the nearby Dalreoch quarry which, over the years, has weathered into the dark grey which is so typical of the stonework of the West of Scotland.

The library was opened in September 1910.
Its current use remains as a branch library.

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]