The Colliers of Scotland

Coatbridge Library
by Tom Frew

Coatbridge Library has now moved to the Buchanan Centre - on the site of the old public baths   - a brand new purpose built fully accessible building which also includes GP surgeries, First Stop Shop and Registrars .

The Former Carnegie Library in Academy Street, Coatbridge housed in a conventional Edwardian style red sandstone building is a library that Andrew Carnegie provided �15,000 to construct. The fa�ade is enlivened with carved shields on the side wings and a relief displaying the town's coat of arms over the main entrance. The building�s Architect was Alexander Cullen, and his other works can still be seen throughout Lanarkshire.

Andrew Carnegie officially opened the library on 7th June 1906 in person. He received the ceremonial freedom of burgh of Coatbridge from Provost McCosh during the celebrations. Earlier in the day he had visited the nearby town of Airdrie, which is home to one of the world's first Carnegie libraries.

In his 1906 speech to people of Coatbridge, Carnegie mentioned that in the early days opposition to free libraries was strong: "the charge was brought that this was Socialism in its worst form� but they had got over that stage bravely, and now there was not a community in Scotland that had not its public library. Well may we assume that by such generosity another step in the emancipation of the working classes was underway?

It is doubtful if too many citizens of the �Brig would know too much about the Scot that we owe so much too. We the �readers� recognize and appreciate the word or name Carnegie, some with a faint recollection that � steel making � was involved, to others just a building in Academy St. For myself returning to normal life after four years in a sanatorium the Carnegie provided a means of self-education and a life long appreciation of this great man�s philanthropic endeavours.

The Carnegie Story 1836 - 1919

THE RISE to fame of Andrew Carnegie is the classic rags-to-riches success story. Born in Dunfermline the son of a humble handloom weaver, he grew into one of the best-known industrialists in the world, dominating the burgeoning American steel industry in the 19th century.

Carnegie retired as the world�s richest man, then proceeded to become the world�s greatest philanthropist, giving the bulk of his vast fortune to charitable trusts and adopting as his motto "the man who dies rich dies disgraced".

It was a far cry from his early years in Dunfermline. His father, William, was an active Chartist and marched for the rights of the workingman. The arrival of the power loom and a general economic downturn impoverished his family and in 1848, when Andrew was 12, the family left Scotland for America and joined a Scottish colony in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, now part of Pittsburgh. His first job was as a bobbin boy in a cotton factory; then, at 14, a messenger in a telegraph office. His willingness to work hard and his shrewd business brain were evident even then and he quickly moved into a senior management post with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

The man who dies rich dies disgraced.�

In 1865, Carnegie, already wealthy - having invested wisely in the up-and-coming oil industry and other thriving businesses - established his own business enterprises. He foresaw the worldwide demand for iron and steel and by the 1870s the Carnegie Steel Company operated dozens of steel mills in and around Pittsburgh, introduced efficient working practices like the Bessemer process and led the enormous expansion of steel making in the United States.

Carnegie consolidated his business empire by buying the coke fields and iron-ore deposits that furnished the raw materials for steel making as well as ships and railroads for transporting supplies to the mills. The low point in his career was the trade union strike at the company�s Homestead works in 1892. Local managers brought in armed guards from the Pinkerton detective agency to break the strike and in the shootout that followed three guards and nine workers were killed. In 1901 he sold his business to industrialist JP Morgan of the US Steel Corporation for $480m.

One of Carnegie�s lifelong interests was the establishment of free public libraries and in his 1889 book The Gospel of Wealth, he wrote of his belief in philanthropy and asserted that that all personal wealth beyond that required to supply the needs of one's family should be regarded as a trust fund to be administered for the benefit of the community. He enthusiastically set about his philanthropic endeavours, providing money for over 2,500 libraries throughout the English-speaking world and more than 7,600 pipe organs for churches. He established a variety of trust funds and foundations, which still operate to this day. By the time of his death he had given away $350m to good causes.

Carnegie had the magnificent Skibo Castle in Sutherland built for him and his wife Louise and after his retirement the couple divided their time between the castle, their home in New York City and their summer house, Shadowlands, in Lenox, Massachusetts, where Carnegie died in August 1919.

Coatbridge Library has moved to a brand new purpose built fully accessible building which also includes GP surgeries, First Stop Shop and Registrar's 

The library has now moved to The Buchanan Centre - on the site of the old public baths.

Coatbridge Library
Learning and Leisure Services
The Buchanan Centre
126 Main Street

Phone: 01236 856444

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