The Best Gift: A Record of the Carnegie Libraries in Ontario

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This book is a vivid reminder of the early days of library development in Ontario. The beautiful buildings which still grace Ontario towns and villages, as illustrated, are a part of our provincial heritage.

By the turn of the century, a public library was perceived as an important element in the civic fabric of almost every Ontario community. However, the introduction of the Carnegie grants for library buildings gave impetus to the Ontario government programme for library development, and provided a focus for increased support of library services. Rivalry among neighbouring communities to secure a Carngie library heightened this awareness, as did the publicity – in some instances even controversy – which surrounded each step of the grant seeking, site selection and plan approval process.

As well, the hitherto unexplored story of Carnegie grant process in each community has been examined, and the role of one man, James Bertram, secretary to Andrew Carnegie, is revealed in absorbing detail. Library plans and design elements are also discussed, and the influence of a few architects on the building designs is revealed; the fascinating involvement of Frank Lloyd Wright in the Pembroke Carnegie library building is one such example.


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Andrew Carnegie and his library philanthropy
Ontario Libraries before 1900
Letter of promise
Effective Accommodation
Ontario Carnegie libraries
Selected Bibliography
Photography Index and Credits

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About the author (1984)

Margaret Beckman is Chief Librarian, University of Guelph, and is the author of numerous publications and presentations in the fields of library building planning, library management and library systems. She has served as a member of both the Waterloo Public and Midwestern Regional Library Boards, and was also on a task force in the recent Ontario Public Libraries Programme Review.

Stephen Langmead is an architect in private practice in Toronto, and was project architect for the McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph. He now combines architectural consulting for libraries and building renovations with the part-time teaching of design at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.

Mrs. Beckman and Mr. Langmead have been lecturers in library building planning at the graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Western Ontario, and at McArthur and Althouse Colleges. They have conducted seminars in library design in Canada, the Caribbean and Findland, and are co-authors of a text book on library building design as well as several articles on the same subject.

John Black is Associate Librarian, University of Guelph, and also holds an appointment as an Associate Professor of Political Studies. His fields of interest are information and communication technologies, and in addition to lecturing in that field he is the author of a book on propoganda and several articles on international communications and library information systems. An earlier interest was photography and he has been a photoographer/reporter with several Ontario newspapers.

The authors are the principals of a consulting service to public, academic and special libraries and have been involved with more than 60 libraries in Canada, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Iceland.

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