Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates, Philanthropists of Public Libraries in the United States Jennifer Finlay San Jose State University LIBR 200-04 December 4, 2005
Carnegie and Gates Abstract Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates, major business leaders of their respective eras, had a major impact on public libraries in the United States through their philanthropic efforts. Carnegie funded a program at the beginning of the 20th century that provided financial support for the construction of over 1,600 libraries. Bill Gates, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation U.S. Library Program developed a means for 11,000 libraries to have public access computers and Internet access. The personal histories of the two men, the criticisms of the programs and their donors, and the impacts of their philanthropic efforts are detailed. A brief history of public libraries in the United States is also included.
Carnegie and Gates Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates, Philanthropists of Public Libraries in the United States Introduction A century separates Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates as two of the wealthiest men of their eras. Carnegie was one of the founders of the modern industrial age through the steel
industry. Gates is one of today’s most important developers of a new kind of business – the high tech industry. Both have made what can be considered the most significant contributions to libraries in American library history. Andrew Carnegie, at the turn of the 20th century, created a means for 1, 419 communities across the United States to build free public libraries for their towns or cities (Jones, 1997). Bill Gates, perhaps following in the footsteps of Carnegie, developed a program that has provided 11,000 libraries across the country 47,000 computers to usher these libraries into the 21st century through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation U.S. Library Program (Global Libraries Fact Sheet, 2004). Both men from both periods of time brought to the American people, through libraries, the essential skill of literacy; Carnegie through books, Gates through technology. As the United States entered the 20th century, the country was moving from a rural, agrarian society to that of an urban, industrialized nation in which workers needed to be more educated to meet the needs of the modernization of life. The same phenomenon occurred at the end of the 20th century as the ubiquity of computers and the World Wide Web have become essential for almost every task in modern American society. There are many similarities between the two programs even though the scopes of the programs appear to be so considerably different. Without the philanthropic efforts of Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates, America’s libraries would not have the same relevance to their communities and to the United States.
Carnegie and Gates
Biographical Sketches of Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates Andrew Carnegie was born in 1835, in Scotland, and immigrated to the United States in 1848. He and his family settled on the north side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in a town called Allegheny City. Carnegie, through hard work and self education, rose from a low-level textile factory worker to one of the wealthiest industrialists of his era. Carnegie either had the greatest luck of being in the right place at the right time, or his hard work paid off well. He worked his way out of the factory to be a messenger for the modern communication tool of his era, the telegraph, and then a telegraph operator for the superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad. During this period Carnegie developed a friendship with Colonel James Anderson who had a collection of books that he loaned to young men in Allegheny City who were working to better themselves. Carnegie dedicated a monument to Anderson at the site of his first donated library with an inscription that read: To Colonel James Anderson,...