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Why York County doesn’t have a Carnegie library


A lot of towns have Carnegie public libraries, funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Did you ever wonder why York County doesn’t have a Carnegie funded library? Carnegie’s biographer credits him with building over 2,800 free libraries with about 1,950 of them in the United
States. It seems that one was offered here, but evidently declined. Here is an account from the January 23, 1900 York Press:

Andrew Carnegie Offers York $50,000 Under Certain Conditions.
Andrew Carnegie, the millionaire iron king offers a gift of $50,000 for the erection of a public library building for York, provided a site is furnished and an annual appropriation is made by the city for its maintenance.
The offer of the gift is the result of a request made by Mayor Geise in a letter to Mr. Carnegie several days ago asking him to consider the donation of a public library building for this city.
Following is the response to the Mayor’s letter:

New York, Jan. 16, 1900

Frank Geise, Esq. Mayor of York, Pa.
Dear Sir:
In reply to your letter of yesterday: If the city of York will provide a suitable site for detached building with light all around, and pass an ordinance obligating itself to maintain the public library at a cost of not less than $5,000 per year, Mr. Carnegie will give $50,000 for said library building.

Very respectfully yours,
Private Secretary.

The mayor has talked with a number of public spirited citizens and he feels sure a fund large enough to buy suitable ground for the building could easily be raised, but the annual appropriation for maintenance would have to fall upon the taxables of the city. It is estimated a tax of three-eight of a mill would be required.
York has 5,000 volumes of books, covering a wide range in the fields of science, art, history, fiction, etc., which will be available to the general public in the near future. These books were acquired by donations from local fraternal organizations and by purchase from funds raised by the pupils of the York High School and the distribution of them is vested in a regularly constituted board of directors. The intent, when the volumes were collected, was to establish a public library, and as soon as the new High school building was completed the school directors offered to set apart a room for that purpose. This room is now being shelved and as soon as the work is completed the new library will be opened to the general public.

I have never heard of a York County library funded by Carnegie, and it probably never happened. Even though the York Press doesn’t come out and say it isn’t needed, they must have certainly influenced some people against the plan by pointing out that taxes would rise and that a public library room would soon open at York High. Mayor Geise was probably not pleased.

Click here to see Google images of a variety of substantial and attractive Carnegie libraries, many of which are still standing.