Libraries. Who doesn’t love them? Most readers I know would happily live out the rest of their days in a library, tucked into a comfortable chair, book cradled in their lap, aware of but not really distracted by the gentle hum of whispers and clacking keys around them. A library is a shared luxury that brings its joy at a cost so low to be virtually undetectable at an individual level.
I love libraries and librarians. Most authors do. But did you know how the concept of a free public library in every community came about? In many ways, we have Andrew Carnegie, 19th century industrialist, 20th century philanthropist and Pittsburgh son, to thank for it.
Carnegie believed that wealth should be accrued and then given away. He said, “A man who dies rich dies disgraced.” When he was a young employee in the telegraph company in Pittsburgh, Colonel James Anderson opened his personal library to the working boys in his neighborhood, allowing them to borrow one book every Saturday and exchange it for another the next. Carnegie so benefited from this unlikely privilege, he was determined to provide the same benefit to as many people as possible once he became rich. He created a foundation that paid for libraries to be built in communities that provided land, agreed to spend an amount equal to ten percent of the cost of construction each year on maintenance and promised to make the libraries free to all. Before Andrew Carnegie’s generous gifts, libraries depended on subscriptions, almost like country clubs, and not everyone to afford to belong to one.
Andrew Carngie’s foundation eventually built over 3,500 free libraries around the world, and his requirement that communities who received free library construction funds maintain those libraries in perpetuity instantly transformed the notion of a library from a luxury meant only for a well-to-do few to a tax-supported service of a community. Genius!
A number of the first Carnegie free libraries built were built in Pittsburgh, including one of the two libraries at the heart of my latest book, Timeless Desire, the Andrew Carnegie Library of Carnegie, Pennsylvania, a library only a couple of miles from my home. (And don’t think the name of the town is a coincidence. They changed their name to convince Andrew Carnegie to give them a library.) Panna, the heroine of Timeless Desire, is a librarian struggling with budget cuts. She stumbles upon a long-locked door, and, well, if you’re a fan of Gwyn Cready, you can guess what happens next. She finds herself at the turn of the eighteenth century n the castle of a rich English nobleman, in fact the very same nobleman whose larger-than-life statue looms over her seat at the check-out desk. Only the nobleman is not quite the man she expected, despite the fact he has a library to rival any lord in England.
His library is the second library that plays a big role in the book, and his was inspired by J. P. Morgan’s personal library, which still stands in Manhattan and is a museum now, open to the public. If you have a chance, I highly recommend visiting it. The library is absolutely AWE-INSPIRING. It really shows what a man with a gazillion dollars can do when he puts his mind to it. The picture is below. My hero, whose name is Bridgewater, is very proud of his library. And, of course, whenever you have a library that grand, you have to have a hidden staircase, right? Needless to say, Panna and Bridgewater’s adventure begins with the hidden staircase and takes them through battle-ravaged northern England to a forbidding Scottish castle in the borderlands of Scotland. You can read the whole description on my homepage. It’s a yummy romance, and the yummy-ness begins with this fantastic cover! I’ve never had a wrap-around cover before, and I couldn’t be happier!
In honor of Panna and Bridgewater’s book-filled romance, I’ll be giving away three copies of Timeless Desire. Just enter here for one chance to win, or friend me on Facebook for a second chance to win, or follow me on Twitter for a third chance to win.
Thanks so much, everyone, and may your libraries grow and grow!
I’ve already read Timeless Desire and loved it y’all. The print copy should be available the 23rd. The kindle is available now by clicking on Timeless Desire in Gwyn’s post.