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History of the Libraries

new building
The Main Albany Public Library today

In 1914, Albany Public Library opened the doors to its beautiful new facility on the corner of Third Avenue and Ferry Street. This was one of hundreds of new libraries that sprung up throughout the United States because of funds donated by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

By the late 1960s, Albany outgrew the 5,600 sq. ft. Carnegie Library, and it was time to build a new facility. Through a generous grant of one acre and $200,000 from Fred Meyer and The Fred Meyer Foundation, matched by a $200,000 federal library grant from the Oregon State Library, construction was begun in 1973 on a new 17,000 sq. ft. library. The new Main Library opened with pomp and ceremony on April 21, 1974, ready to serve a population of 21,700 city residents.

old main library

 

Since that opening, the city has more than doubled in size. The Library has continued to be the city’s center of information and knowledge, where patrons of all ages and backgrounds come to gather, learn, and grow. Usage and appreciation of the Library is at an all-time high across the page of measurable statistics, which is a wonderful problem to have.

Through a generous anonymous donation, the Library moved into its new 40,000 sq. ft. home in early 2009. Wired for the 21st century, seating for our increasing number of patrons, parking for lots more visitors, and, generally, more accessible to serve our community, your new Library addresses the foreseeable needs of the community.

1914-carnegie-library
The Downtown Carnegie Library

Carnegie portrainAndrew Carnegie, a steel magnate, was a philanthropist who began building libraries in the United States in the early 1900s. In 1911, he offered the City of Albany $12,500.00 to build a free public library provided they match his donation and staff the new building. The final building cost came to $20,000.

As early as 1907, Sarah Adams, then president of the Modern Travelers Club, initiated the idea of a public library by creating a committee to gather a collection of books and naming a board of directors. A single-room brick building near Second and Ferry was selected to house the collection. They were open to the public on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Over the next few years, the club gathered 1,163 volumes.

The library became a tax-supported service in December 1910 when the City of Albany assumed the operation of this library. The response from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation grant came from Carnegie’s secretary in the form of a simple pencil written letter. This original letter is on display today.

Mr. and Mrs. S.E. Young donated the land on the corner of Third Avenue and Ferry Street. Ground was broken for the building on June 5, 1913. Mr. Willard F. Tobey was chosen as the architect. Mrs. Young herself carried in the first book, a Bible, three days prior to the building’s dedication on June 26, 1914. A community of volunteers carried the collection, then totaling 3,200 volumes, into the new facility.

The Downtown Carnegie Library has been in continuous use as a library since the dedication in 1914. It currently houses nearly 23,000 titles for public use, provides public Internet access, a reference workstation, a special Historic Preservation book collection, and a newly relocated Children’s Room in the lower level. It is included as a landmark contributing property in the Monteith National Register Historic District of Albany.

link to Scrapbook of early Carnegie Library era.