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214 Canadian Review of American Studies Revue canadienne d'etudes americaines Abigail A. Van Slyck. Free to All: Carnegie Libraries and American Culture, 1890-1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Pp. xxvii + 276, bibliography, and 121 illustrations. At the turn of the century, Scottish-born industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie funded two thousand five hundred and nine free libraries around the world at a cost of forty-one million dollars. Six hundred and sixty of these were in Great Britain and Ireland, one thousand six hundred and eighty-one in the United States, and one hundred and twenty-five in Canada (one hundred and eleven in Ontario, three in Alberta [Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge], three in British Columbia [New Westminster, Vancouver, Victoria], four in Manitoba [Selkirk and Winnipeg], one in New Brunswick, one in Saskatchewan, and one in the Yukon). The steel baron would help those who would help themselves by providing a library building to any community with one thousand or more residents as long as an annual tax would be levied to maintain the structure, purchase books, and pay a staff. His generous offer transformed public education. Now Abigail Van Slyck, an inventive scholar at the University of Arizona, has combined her knowledge of architecture, art history, and women's studies to provide a superb history of the subject in the United States. The result is a complex portrait of a vital educational institution, as seen from the perspectives of the donor, the architects, the civic boosters in the communities that embraced the offer, the women librarians, and the users, with particular emphasis on the children. Her work is enhanced with one hundred twenty-one blueprints and illustrations, largely of mid-western interiors and exteriors, and impressive notes and bibliography. Van Slyck's study is sophisticated. She examines the evolution of the use of space in Carnegie's library plan, from its infancy in the 1890s in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, site of his steel town, to an efficient World War One social institution. The original buildings enforced Victorian notions of hierarchy, with a separate reading room for ladies, an ornamental fireplace to enhance the portrait of the benevolent Carnegie, closed stacks, and a luxurious board room for trustees. Later, new priorities supplanted the old. The women came to share the main reading room and the trustees held meetings in the same space used by staff, classes, and local club members. Half of the libraries opened their stacks to users. Working class newspaper readers, however, were isolated Book Reviews 215 from middle-class library patrons; sometimes relegated to the basement, with a separate entrance. The women who held the new professional post of librarian became tethered to a central circulation desk, where they could keep an eye on the users and the stacks, but also remain on view to library patrons. In Gainesville, Texas, a Negro reading room was established, but never used. Instead, African-American readers were sent to a classroom in the Negro Schoolhouse. Child readers enjoyed consideration. Their quarters were separated from those of quieter patrons, but they enjoyed the concentration of female librarians who could rely on social beliefs in women's nurturing qualities to win distinction for themselves as specialized professionals . Recipients of the libraries developed priorities of their own. The women's literary club members, who agitated for their town government to embrace Carnegie's offer, hoped public libraries would support their goal of moral uplift, distracting youth in particular from the joy of vice. These reformers sought residential sites for the new libraries to facilitate access by families. Civic-minded boosters in business, on the other hand, expected the new classical temples of learning to enhance the downtown area and attract new investors to the locale. Eventually large cities met both demands, providing a central library in the heart of the commercial district, with satellite branches in neighbourhoods. Van Slyck has collected a great deal of information to tell this tale and documented her research carefully, but her primary contribution has been to provide a splendid model for future scholars. Her consideration of all players involved with institution building in the community, alone and together, is complex and masterful. Karen ]. Blair Central...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 214-215
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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