Andrew Carnegie helped lead the expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century, ultimately becoming one of the richest Americans in history. Upon establishing his personal wealth, he became a philanthropist, giving away an estimated $350 million dollars within the last 18 years of his life alone ($65 billion when adjusted for 2020 inflation). Through his philanthropy, he placed special focus on libraries, world peace, education, and scientific research. He built Carnegie Hall in New York City, Carnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Institution for Science, along with multiple museums. He also established multiple trusts and funds earmarked strictly for research purposes. Carnegie also personally funded over 3,000 public libraries, with locations in 47 different states, along with libraries in Canada, Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the West Indies, and Fiji.
The original Plymouth Public Library was a Carnegie library!
In 1908, a small group of Plymouth residents campaigned for the creation of a public library. A library board was established, and various fundraisers were held. Andrew Carnegie was contacted by the library board president in 1910, and agreed to a one-time donation of $15,000 dollars for the creation of Plymouth’s first public library.
Ground was broken at the corner of Center and Garro streets in downtown Plymouth in the summer of 1913. On January 20th, 1914, the library was formerly dedicated and opened to the public just a few days later.
Due to the inability to create ADA compliance, and the need to expand due to a growing collection, the original Carnegie Library was demolished in October of 1976. The new Plymouth Public Library was built in the same location, and opened in December of 1977, with a formal dedication taking place in March of 1978. In 2002, the Plymouth Public Library purchased the former Pilot News building in what was then the adjacent lot to the north of the library. The library was then expanded into its current iteration, merging both buildings into one large library.
Here are a few fun facts about the Plymouth Public Library (PPL):
Tall, decorative, stained glass windows from the original Carnegie library are still on display inside PPL; one set is located near the large windows in the magazine section, the other set is located in the south window of the Adult Services Department.
Patrons were at one time able to check out assorted framed works of art and photographs, for the purpose of displaying within their own homes in the event they were hosting a dinner party, or if they simply wanted something nice to look at.
The cornerstone from the original Carnegie library is on display in the small garden/flower bed outside of the south window of the Adult Services Department. The bronze plaque from the wall of the original Carnegie library is also still on display, mounted on the south wall of the Adult Services Desk next to the south entrance/exit.
PPL previously allowed things such as VCR’s, record players, and other non-traditional material(s) to be checked out by patrons. As time progressed and technology advanced, PPL adapted, and now offers different non-traditional material(s) for patrons to checkout, such as WiFi hotspots, slide projectors, projector screens, cake pans, sewing machines, and more.
PPL is a safe weather space. If you are in downtown Plymouth during library operating hours and hear the tornado siren blow, head to the library for safety!
The black posts currently visible at the Adult Services Desk and in the Audio-Visual Department are supports for the interior wall of what was previously a large public meeting room, before the library was renovated/expanded in 2002 to its current state.
When the first Plymouth Public Library opened in 1914, their collection consisted of 3,422 total items. Upon opening the new building in 1978, PPL housed 35,438 items. Currently, the Plymouth Public Library is home to 162,505 total items. Quite a difference from 106 years ago!
See you at the library!