Wednesday May 11, 2005
By Dawna Curler
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
Access to information through free community libraries is taken for granted today, but the local library wasn't always available. Not until the early twentieth century, when philanthropist Andrew Carnegie began funding library buildings across the country, did many American towns, including those in Northern California and Southern Oregon, develop tax-supported, permanent public libraries.
Many communities did have libraries of a sort in the nineteenth century, but they were typically small collections of books stored in borrowed or rented spaces. Private organizations, lodges or ladies clubs often sponsored them, and one gained access through membership or subscription. Through his grants, Carnegie provided money for buildings, but first the community had to establish a library, locate a site, and pass a resolution that provided on-going public funding to maintain the free library.
Eureka, Ferndale, Willits, Ukiah, Orland, Chico, Redding, Yreka, and Alturas were among Northern California communities that qualified for Carnegie libraries. Over the Oregon border, Ashland, Medford, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls and Eugene also received grants.
Nearly a century after construction, some have fallen victim to the wrecking ball but most Carnegie libraries in our region endure as private offices, museums, or community centers. One is a police station and several are still the libraries they were built to be.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Dawna Curler, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org