February is National Library Month. What better way to celebrate than to showcase Carnegie libraries near me?
As a teen, Andrew Carnegie borrowed books from the personal library of Colonel James Anderson, who opened his collection to his workers every Saturday. By doing so, he provided immigrants like Carnegie the opportunity to better themselves in a time when some people felt the lower classes didn’t deserve books. Carnegie firmly believed that anyone could work hard and be successful with help from others. His libraries are proof of that.
Between 1883 and 1920, Andrew Carnegie’s money built 3,500 libraries in the United States. Even more libraries around the world are attributed to Carnegie grants. At first, Carnegie built libraries in places where he had a personal connection, like the first one, built in his birthplace, Dunfermline, Scotland. The first in the United States was in Carnegie’s adopted hometown, Allegheny, Pennsylvania.
Today I’d like to share five Carnegie libraries in places that have meaning to me. All are still operating as public libraries in Northern California.
- East San Jose
The Carnegie library in my hometown opened in 1908. It is currently the only Carnegie library in Santa Clara County that is still operating as a public library. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the San Jose Public Library system. San Jose is the heart of Silicon Valley, so it’s nice to see a preserved piece of the past.
2. Santa Cruz
The beach town of Santa Cruz was a favorite destination when I was a child. My paternal grandmother, Eva Walters, lived there much of her life. The family first came to Santa Cruz in 1862. You can read more about them in my novel Under the Almond Trees. This Carnegie library was one of four built in Santa Cruz, and is the only one still operating as a library.
My Aunt Rosemary, daughter of Eva Walters, had a walnut orchard in Woodland with her husband. Auntie Mo and Uncle Chic always wanted my husband and I to come help them with the harvest since my husband is allergic to walnuts and wouldn’t eat any. Auntie Mo’s early life is included in Under the Almond Trees. . The Carnegie library in Woodland is the oldest in California.
4. San Francisco
The Golden Gate branch of the San Francisco Public Library system is the nearest Carnegie location to where my ancestors lived on Lombard and Jones Streets. Ellen Rand Perkins came from New York during the Gold Rush and married Henry VanValkenburgh in San Francisco. Read about her life in Under the Almond Trees. This library, built in a Classical Revival style, is one of seven Carnegie libraries built in San Francisco, all still in operation.
5. Nevada City
My ancestor Samantha Lockwood came to California during the Gold Rush with her second husband, James Churchman. They lived for a time in Nevada City as did her daughter from her first marriage, Emily Miree, and her family. Their stories are told in my upcoming novel The River Remembers, coming June 2023 from She Writes Press.This Carnegie Library is now the Doris Foley Library for Historical Research, part of the Nevada County Library System.