About This Lesson
This lesson is based on the "Medford Free Public Library," the "Carnegie Free Library," the "Carnegie Libraries of Washington Thematic Resource," "Carnegie Library Thematic Resource - Utah," and other sources related to Andrew Carnegie and his libraries. It was written by Roberta Copp, an Information Services Librarian at Richland County Public Library, South Carolina. TwHP is sponsored, in part, by the Cultural Resources Training Initiative and Parks as Classrooms programs of the National Park Service. This lesson is one in a series that brings the important stories of historic places into the classrooms across the country.
Where it fits into the curriculum
Topics: The lesson could be used in units on American social history between 1865 and 1919, particularly the widespread efforts of reform. Students will better understand the role of philanthropy in U.S. history and the place of libraries in American culture.
Time period: Late 19th century to early 20th century
Relevant United States History Standards for Grades 5-12
Relevant Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
Find your state's social studies and history standards for grades Pre-K-12
Objectives for students
1) To understand how Andrew Carnegie epitomized the American dream of "rags to riches."
2) To explain why Carnegie chose libraries to be among his first and foremost benefactions.
3) To examine the impact of libraries in America and how they reflect the values of the society they serve.
4) To explain the effects of philanthropy on the United States.
5) To determine how their own community libraries are being supported and how they were supported in the past.
Materials for students
The materials listed below either can be used directly on the computer or can be printed out, photocopied, and distributed to students. The maps and images appear twice: in a low-resolution version with associated questions and alone in a larger, high-resolution version.
1) one map showing the distribution of Carnegie libraries in the United States in 1920;
2) three readings examining Andrew Carnegie, how communities were able to obtain a Carnegie library, and a history of two such libraries;
3) one document demonstrating the application procedure for a Carnegie library;
4) one table demonstrating the distribution of Carnegie libraries in the United States;
5) one drawing of a sample building plan for a library;
6) five photographs of Carnegie Libraries in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Washington, Utah, and Kansas;
7) one illustration by Harper's Weekly of Andrew Carnegie building his legacy.
Visiting the site
Although Carnegie libraries are widespread, it may not be feasible for your students to visit one. Through their research, they should locate the nearest Carnegie library. Encourage visitation if possible, but photographs and floor plans may have to suffice.