Celebrating the Carnegie legacy

On 11 August 2019, the centenary of the death of Andrew Carnegie, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a 30 minute documentary: Gordon Brown on the Gospel of Wealth. The former Prime Minister, who has focused on the importance of education since he retired from government, talked about the good – and bad sides – of one of the richest men in the world. Born in Scotland, making his money in the United States, he was the first modern philanthropist.

Four books about Andrew Carnegie, lying on a table alongside 2 ring binders filled with postcards of libraries, displayed in plastic sleeves
A selection of books and postcards from my collection.

The programme paid a brief visit to Dunfermline library – opened in 1883 it was the first one funded by Carnegie, and is still high on my list of Carnegie libraries to visit.

Besides funding so many libraries, Carnegie also funded bursaries for students – firmly believing that literacy and education was the most important thing to spend his money on. It was interesting to hear from a modern charity with similar aims: Room to Read also focus on education – in particular girls.

The programme also contained many insights from today’s philanthropists – including one who commented that each year when the Forbes rich list of billionaires is published, he castigates those at the top, saying they are not giving their money away fast enough. Andrew Carnegie would have approved.

I learned something new too – among a list of countries who received funding to build libraries, Gordon Brown included Malaysia. I’d never heard of this one, but a quick bit of research revealed there was one, in Kota Bahru, 250 miles northeast of Kuala Lumpur. I’ve updated my list, but as this news article reveals, the library was demolished in 1982, so the only evidence now will be articles and photos.