No Destination: Carnegie Library (Middlesboro)

Carnegie Library, Middlesboro, Ky.

The Carnegie Library in Middlesboro is one of 35 libraries built between 1899 and 1914 by the Carnegie Foundation. [*] Completed in 1912, the keys to the structure were never turned over to the city because the municipality could not gather the $1,500 (10% of the cost) necessary to receive the structure under the terms of the Carnegie grant. As a result, the building stood vacant for several years. Ultimately, the Bell County library moved into the building. Other tenants have included the police department, a classroom building for the overcrowded schools and as a bandage preparation facility for the Red Cross during World War II.

Today, the old Carnegie Library houses the county’s historical society and museum.

As Carnegie said, “The[ libraries] only help those that help themselves. They never pauperize. They reach the aspiring, and open to these the chief treasures of the world—those stored in books. A taste for reading drives out lower tastes.” Despite not funding their share of the library, the people of Middlesboro did want the facility [PDF of letters by citizens to Carnegie, compiled by J. Jeffrey of Western Kentucky University].