CONTACT
Carnegie Library  (1908 - 1953)
Carnegie Library, Phoenix, now known as
Carnegie Center
Librarians at the Carnegie
Library, 1910s
The Carnegie Library was the first public library in Phoenix. The Phoenix Woman's Club lobbied the city council for this library, and its members wrote the grant to the Carnegie Foundation which funded the library's construction. It was dedicated on February 14, 1908, exactly four years before Arizona became a state.

Region: Phoenix and Central Arizona
Theme: Women in Community Building & Women at Work

All over Arizona and throughout the United States, women's clubs organized the first public libraries. Dedicated to improving the cultural and educational opportunities available in their towns, these women volunteered many hours to develop the early libraries. Women in Phoenix and other towns also believed that libraries would offer a better recreational outlet for men's time, away from bars and saloons.

The women librarians who staffed the Carnegie were managed by the all- male library board. The dedicated librarians served the public 10 hours a day, six days a week and three hours every Sunday, working long hours for low pay. Mrs. Morford, the head librarian, earned $40 a month for several years. Finally, in 1911, she received additional pay for cataloging books, but unfortunately, she died the next year before receiving the extra pay.

The librarians staffed the library, cataloged, repaired and bought books with assistance from the secretary of the Carnegie Library Board, who approved all purchases. By 1916, the library had over 16,000 books. In 1918, the board began urging employees to secure additional library training at a school or university. As their field became professional, some Phoenix librarians traveled to California for library instruction at the Riverside Public Library.

The Carnegie Library was the work site for a revolving group of women librarians who served the public there for over 40 years, until the library closed in 1953. The building has been restored through the leadership of Arizona State Rep. Polly Rosenbaum (now deceased) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.

For more information, visit the Carnegie Center to see an exhibit on the library's history. The Carnegie, located at 1101 W. Washington St., is open from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Photo Credits:
Carnegie Library, Phoenix, now known as Carnegie Center - Courtesy of Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, Archives Division, 01-8226
Librarians at the Carnegie Library, 1910s, - Courtesy of Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, Archives Division, 02-0064

 

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