Carnegie Library - CSPM

Carnegie Library

If, as some say, you can tell a lot about a person by the books they read, then it follows that you can tell a lot about a community by their libraries. And Colorado Springs has excellent libraries. Residents organized a Fountain Society of Natural Science reading room in 1872. The stately Carnegie Library was built in 1905 – one of three in the region – through the generosity of locals and a sizeable gift from Andrew Carnegie, noted Gilded Age industrialist and philanthropist.

– From the CSPM Curator of History

Built using matching funds provided by Andrew Carnegie, the architecture of the 1905 Carnegie Library represents a promise between the library and the citizens of Colorado Springs. The rich construction materials showed the public the stability of the new institution, known then as the Colorado Springs Public Library. Dedicated child-sized tables and chairs demonstrated the library was for all ages. The grand views from the reading room integrated the library into both the built and natural landscapes. From its earliest beginnings, the library was a community hub.

For over 50 years, the Colorado Springs Public Library and the West End Library (now the Old Colorado City Library) provided services to the city. In 1963, the Pikes Peak Library District was formed as a special district, incorporating existing libraries in outlying areas such as Palmer Lake and Ute Pass.

With additional patrons, the sixty-year-old Colorado Springs Public Library needed additional space. In 1966, the construction of Penrose Library expanded the library’s ability to meet increased community expectations. The expansion included an enlarged children’s section, cataloging and processing areas, and an auditorium. The original Colorado Springs Public Library was linked to the new Penrose Library.

As Colorado Springs rapidly grew east, a library was needed to serve that area. The first East Library was established near the intersection of Academy and Constitution in 1973. In 1987, the East Library and Information Center opened at its present location. The new library’s architecture took visual ques from the design of the historic 1905 Carnegie Library and included a silver finish to modernize its look. The library included a video center, a remote DMV office, and Maggie’s Place, the world’s first online catalog.

Responding to changing community needs, Pikes Peak Library District continues to adapt. Library 21c encourages patrons to examine their view of how a library serves its community with multiple makerspaces, public meeting rooms, a recording studio, and business incubator. Rapidly adapting to the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic, library staff members reinvented service practices and provided opportunities for people to socialize with limited access to physical spaces.

The 1905 Carnegie Library, while no longer the center of the library district, continues to reflect the community as the home to the Regional History and Genealogy collections of the Pikes Peak Library District. The entirety of the District maintains a long tradition of creatively serving the Pikes Peak Region.

Generously Submitted by Brett Lobello, Director of Regional History and Genealogy, Pikes Peak Library District

Collection Gallery

Additional Sources:

  • Book: Free to All: Carnegie Libraries & American Culture, 1890-1920 by Abigail A. Van Slyck
  • Book: The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie and His Essay The Gospel of Wealth by Andrew Carnegie
  • Children’s Book: The Man Who Loved Libraries: The Story of Andrew Carnegie by Andrew Larsen
  • Video: “Andrew Carnegie Public Libraries” by Learning to Give: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f0MEmxAhM4
  • Visit: Special Collections in the 1905 Carnegie Library: ttps://ppld.org/regional-history-and-genealogy
  • Website: “History of PPLD” by Pikes Peak Library District: https://ppld.org/history-ppld