Carmel’s Carnegie library celebrating 100th anniversary

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By Chris Bavender

The Carnegie Library will celebrate its 100th anniversary with two programs June 9 and 10 at the library. Events to mark the milestone started in January and culminate this month with an open house and a program hosted by an Andrew Carnegie re-enactor.

“The Carmel Library is actually older than that – it started in 1904 but was in the old telephone exchange so the community wanted its own building,” said library spokeswoman Beth Jenneman. “Andrew Carnegie was giving grants for libraries, and Carmel applied and got it and built a Carnegie library so we wanted to celebrate that. And of course Andrew Carnegie was just such a big deal throughout the country in getting free libraries for communities.”

Jenneman said that’s because at the time it cost money to use a library.

“It was unique, and he did it because he was too poor at one time to afford the money it cost to use a library,” she said. “So, he really was a driving force to having free equal access for everyone to a public library. That was his thing and is still our mantra today – we welcome everyone and that is the importance of libraries.”

While it may seem the advent of e-books and other technology has made libraries a thing of the past, Jenneman said it’s actually the opposite.

“Most libraries across the country in the past few years have seen an increase in usage. Part of that was the recession and people using the library resources to job hunt,” she said. “Last year we had two million check outs – the first time for us. Libraries aren’t just books and story times anymore. We have the technology here that some don’t have access to at home like tablets and computers. We have downloadable e-books and audio books that are quite popular for those who have the devices.”

An open house from 6 to 8 p.m. June 9 at the Woody’s Library Restaurant will feature a display of historic library items and music by the barbershop quartet Coalition. Visitors will also be able to have their picture taken in period costumes. The highlight though, Jenneman said, will be Jeffrey Smith, an Andrew Carnegie re-enactor who will speak on “How to be a Millionaire.”

The final program of the 100th anniversary celebration is 7 p.m. June 10 at the Carmel Clay Public Library and will again feature Smith as Carnegie.

Smith, who is the Chair of the History and Geography Department at Lindenwood University in St. Louis has been portraying Carnegie for 19 years.

“You are performing or interpreting that character based on the specific persons own writing – in this case – Carnegie’s,” Smith said. “The words you will hear are mine in general but I use a lot of Carnegie’s own words and ideas and key phrases that are his and not mine. Even the jokes are his and not mine – he’s funnier than me by large.”

The speech – How to be a Millionaire – is based on an article Carnegie wrote.

“He wrote for a variety of audiences – including for young people – and he wrote one of those for St. Nicholas magazine, which was for children, on how to become a successful businessman,” Smith said. “My talk is based on what he wrote at the time – his advice to young people.”

Both events are free and open to the public. For more information 814-3905.

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