Montanans love their libraries. They visit libraries to learn and to be entertained. Libraries allow people to connect with their neighbors, with the world, and with their own imaginations. Today, Montana counts more than one hundred public and branch libraries. The building of their presence across the state took determination and strong local investment. That alone, however, was not always enough. Between 1901 and 1922, seventeen Montana communities built libraries with money given to them by the era’s richest man, Andrew Carnegie. Most of these buildings continue to serve their patrons as libraries, while other have been adapted for use as cultural centers or offices. The fifteen Carnegie libraries that remain standing are important touchstones for their communities. In 2019, the Montana History Foundation established a project to document, celebrate, and support these treasured places.
Text and images excerpted from Kate Hampton’s 2019 book, The Best Gift: Montana’s Carnegie Libraries.
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