CLEBURNE (KRLD) — The future of libraries is in flux. Digital files and electronic communication are arguably making brick and mortar buildings to house collections of books, images and films obsolete.

But, a library in Cleburne has importance beyond what is inside. The bricks and mortar themselves are precious.

The yellow brick library in downtown Cleburne is one of the 32 Carnegie Libraries that were built in Texas at the beginning of the last century.

During the last part of his life, Andrew Carnegie, as in Carnegie Hall, gave away most of his considerable fortune to projects that encouraged learning and scholarship. One of the largest programs the steel giant funded was a grant system for build public libraries across the country.

The women’s guild in Cleburne was interested in their town having one of Mr Carnegie’s libraries as well.

“There were only four cities in Texas that had a public library at that time, and certainly no little bitty towns,” says Bettye Cook with the Layland Museum. “So, in 1902, one of their members went to New York City and secured $20,000.”

The Carnegie Corporation’s only requirement was that recipient cities match his grant.

The beaux arts building, completed in 1903, was used as a library until 1978. By that point, most of the Carnegie Libraries in Texas had been destroyed by fire or demolished, including the ones in Dallas and Fort Worth.

Cleburne’s Carnegie now houses the Layland Museum, which features artifacts from the area. And, upstairs, there’s a little theater where the Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players performed for over 30 years.

The Carnegie Foundation continues its work today, with Andrew Carnegie’s original goal of doing “real and permanent good.” The foundation bestows grants for projects and programs that fit the world we live in now.


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