Free to All: Carnegie Libraries and American Culture, 1890-1920 / Edition 2

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $17.65
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 76%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (20) from $17.65   
  • New (6) from $29.95   
  • Used (14) from $17.65   


Familiar Landmarks in hundreds of American towns, Carnegie libraries have shaped the public library experience of generations of Americans and today seen far from controversial. In Free to All, however, Abigail Van Slyck shows that the classical facades and symmetrical plans of these buildings often mask the complex and contentious circumstances of their construction and use. Free to All is the first comprehensive social and architectural history of the Carnegie library phenomenon, an unprecedented program of philanthropy that helped erect over 1600 public library buildings in the United States. Van Slyck skillfully untangles the overlapping and conflicting motives of the many people involved in erecting, staffing, and using the libraries: Andrew Carnegie himself; small-town civic boosters avid for new investment; metropolitan library trustees anxious to maintain the elite character of urban libraries; architects reacting to increased professional specialization; a growing number of female librarians; and the children and adults, frequently immigrants, who came to borrow books.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This history of the Carnegie libraries was written by an assistant professor of architecture, art history, and women's studies at the University of Arizona. A revision of the author's Ph.D. dissertation in architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, the work examines the funding, design, staffing, and use of monumental urban central libraries and more functional urban branch libraries and small-town libraries. This is interpreted in the context of the professionalization of both architecture and librarianship and of the role of class in the large urban areas and of gender in the small towns. Van Slyck's study is based on extensive archival research concentrating primarily on Carnegie libraries in 13 cities and towns in 11 states and includes numerous illustrations. This broadly conceived work makes a contribution not only to architectural and library history but to social history as well.-Thomas F. O'Connor, Manhattan Coll. Libs., New York
A comprehensive social and architectural history of the Carnegie program of philanthropy that produced some 1,600 US public library buildings. Looks at the conflicting motives of the many people involved in building and staffing the libraries, and discusses trends such as the growing number of female librarians and immigrant library users. Of interest to architectural and social historians, librarians, and preservationists. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226850313
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 294
  • Product dimensions: 6.63 (w) x 9.38 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Giving: The Reform of American Library Philanthropy 1
Librarians vs. Architects 1
Andrew Carnegie Enters the Philanthropic Game 8
Carnegie's Reform of American Philanthropy 19
Defining "The Modern Library Idea" 25
Designing the Modern Library 27
Carnegie's Reform of American Library Architecture 33
Redefining the Nature of Library Use 40
2 Making: The Marketing of Library Design 44
The Culture of Professionalism 45
The Library Bureau and the Modern Library 47
The Impact of the Carnegie Library Program 55
3 Taking: Libraries and Cultural Politics, Part I 64
Cultural Politics in Larger Cities 66
The Impact of the Carnegie Library Program 76
Building the Central Library 80
Building Branch Libraries 101
4 Taking: Libraries and Cultural Politics, Part II 125
Cultural Politics in Smaller Towns 125
Carnegie's Reception in Small-Town America 133
Male and Female Visions of the Library 135
The Temple in the Park 137
5 Working: The Feminization of Librarianship 160
Engendering American Librarianship 160
Engendering Library Design 165
Transcending the Limits of the Gendered Work Station 173
6 Reading: The Experiences of Children as Library Users 201
Coming of Age in the Small-Town Library 203
Claiming New Space in Urban Branches 210
Postscript 217
Appendix 1: Notes on the Erection of Library Buildings 221
Appendix 2: Carnegie Libraries Sampled in Table 4.1 and Graphs 4.1-4.5 225
Notes 227
Bibliography 251
Index 271
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)