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The First Decade, 1895 - 1904


The growth and use of the Library during its first decade proved that Pittsburghers would eagerly respond to the offer of books and library services.

Six branches--Lawrenceville, West End, Wylie Avenue, Mt. Washington and Hazelwood, all opened between 1898 and 1900, and East Liberty opened in 1905--served neighborhoods far removed from Central. Home libraries, reading clubs and summer playground services were begun in areas which were still without a branch library. A system of book loans to schools was started.

The number of volumes grew from Central's first 27,000 to 222,000 in Central and branches. Circulation increased from Central's first year loans of 138,000 to 661,000 in all agencies. Registered borrowers numbered 51,000, and an analysis of adult borrowers showed that office workers and industrial employees ranked first and second among the various groupings.

The staff had grown from nineteen to 113 persons.

At the end of the first decade the Library was operating:

1 Central Library
6 Branch Libraries
13 Deposit stations
1 call station
2 Special Children's rooms
56 School Stations
31 Home libraries
22 Reading Clubs
9 Summer playgrounds
141 Agencies

To support this expansion, the City appropriation had been increased from the original $65,000 to $158,000 in 1905

Early Reference Services
Carnegie Library has emphasized reference and information services from its first days.

The Reference Department was organized by Elisa May Willard, a graduate of the New York State Library School with experience at Montpelier, Vermont. By the end of 1905 it contained 66,000 books and 12,000 pamphlets. It was designated as a depository for U. S. Government documents. Significant collections of scientific and technical books and journals were begun in 1898.

An early report lists (1) members of clubs, (2) men seeking scientific and technical information, and (3) students, in that order, as the principal groups of users.

Inquiries had increased to such a point that three librarians were required at busy times.

The making of bibliographies and the analyzing of poetry and other collections were early activities.

The picture collection, begun in 1899, had grown to 14,600 items, all mounted and filed under Dewey Classification numbers.

Lending Services
The Loan Department had opened with less than 7,500 books, selected to include material on every subject an including the most recent books. The first decade was spent in filling gaps, adding older and standard works to the collection.

The Apprentice Class was started in 1902 under the Supervision of the Superintendent of Circulation. The first class included four students. They joined the class of the Training School for Children's Librarians for instruction in technical library processes, and spent 500 hours (raised to 750 in 1905) in practical work at Central and the branches. The library obtained its junior assistants from the Apprentice Class until 1928.

Behind the Scenes
Behind the scenes, the Order and Catalogue Departments faced the task of acquiring and making available books and other materials for an entirely new library system which had started with nothing and numbered 222,000 volumes at the end of the decade.

The work of the Order Department was complicated by the belief among librarians that the life history of every book, from its acquisition to its final disposition must be recorded. This was accomplished through the use of huge blank books in which each volume was entered under the date of its acquisition, and given its "acquisition number." Entries were made in hand-writing, and to promote legibility the "library hand," was taught to the apprentices. Acquisition books were later discarded in favor of typewritten cards, and the "acquisition number" abandoned.

The catalogue Department performed the Herculean task of classifying and cataloguing 212,000 volumes, all but 10,000 of those which the Library had acquired. This was accomplished by a total staff of four in 1897, growing to ten by the end of the decade.

The Dewey Classification was not then sufficiently detailed for a large collection, and expansions in the fields of history, science and technology were devised, using the Brussels International System as a guide.

Catalogue cards were printed in the Library's Printing Department, but the Catalogue Department had to prepare the copy, read proof, and add subject headings. Most of the cards were annotated.

Cataloguing began May 1, 1895, under the direction of Miss H. St. B. Brooks, first head of the department. When the Library was opened November 5, a printed book catalogue was ready for public use. It contained 9,000 books listed by author, title and subject in dictionary order.

By 1898, card catalogues had been completed for use at Central, and one for each branch.

Linotype slugs made for the catalogues were retained for use in the Monthly Bulletin, and the Classified Catalogue which included all books added to the collections beginning in 1895. The Classified Catalogue was published in parts and was completed through 1911, when it was discontinued because its compilation had become too burdensome. The Classified Catalogue could be found in libraries throughout the country where it was used as a guide in classification and cataloguing. The monthly Bulletin was continued until 1928.

The Technology Department was notable for its classified catalogue, one of the very few in this country. In general, the cards are filed in the same order as the books appear on the shelves. An author file and a list of subject headings, both in dictionary order, act as keys to the catalogue.

Children's Department
Two of the library's most successful departments were established during these early years.

The failure to provide a Children's Room in the original Central Library was remedied when plans were made for the branches, each branch building containing a commodious and attractive room for children. To prepare for their opening, the Children's Department was organized in April, 1898, with Frances Jenkins Olcott as its head. As each branch was opened, the staff and book stock were ready for it.

Pittsburgh is believed to be the first large city to have a fully organized children's department with centralized supervision.

Story telling began at the West End Branch in 1899, and has continued to be an important activity at Central and all branches. Programs have included Greek and Norse mythology, legends of King Arthur, stories from Shakespeare and other sources.

Home Libraries
There were so few libraries to which children could go, that the Library went to them with Home Libraries. They were established in underprivileged neighborhoods in which a mother was willing to house a small bookcase in her own home and have children meet there each week. A "library visitor," usually a volunteer, met with the group, discussed books, read aloud, told stories, and exchanged the children's books. The first home library was opened in July, 1898; at the close of 1905 there were thirty-one.

Reading clubs were established in neighborhoods in which a suitable location for a home library could not be secured. They met in schools and followed much the same program as the home library. They usually met in the evening, however, because many of the older boys of that time had day-time employment. There were 37 such clubs in 1905.

In the enlarged Central Library, opened in 1907, an entire wing containing a series of large connecting rooms gave the Children's Department ample space for its activities.

The kindergarten Training School of Pittsburgh was the first source of Children's librarians; five of its graduates were appointed in 1899. They were adept in dealing with children, but they had no acquaintance with library techniques, and more important, their knowledge of Children's literature was scanty.

The Training Class for Children's Librarians was established October 1, 1900, with five students. It offered a two-year course comprising lectures by Carnegie Library Staff members and a great deal of practice work in the Children's rooms. The word "School" was substituted for "class" in 1901. Requests soon came from other public libraries for the admission of their staff members. To satisfy this demand a special one-year course was established in 1906, open only to those who had completed one year of general library instruction in a recognized library school.

Technology Department
Mr. Carnegie responded to the need of scientific and technical books with a gift of $10,000 in 1898, and again in 1899. Most of these funds were spent for files of technical periodicals and the journals of learned societies. Prices were low and the Library was able to show substantial strength in these early publications.

It was students and engineers in private practice who were said to need these sources of information. It was not until later that industrial companies, with their research and development projects, became significant users of library services.

The first step toward specialization in Science and Technology was taken in April, 1900, when Harrison W. Craver was added to the staff of the Reference Department. Mr. Craver was a graduate of Rose Polytechnic Institute; with experience as a chemist and metallurgist. Although still housed in the Reference Department, science and technology services were organized as a division in 1901, and a department in 1902. It is believed to be the first Technology Department in a municipal public library.

Scholarly bibliographies have always been compiled by the Technology Department. The first one on "malleable castings" appeared in 1904.

Toward the end of the decade the Library lost its organizer and first Librarian, when Edwin H. Anderson resigned December 1, 1904, to enter the business world. In the words of W. N. Frew, Board President, "Mr. Anderson brought the Carnegie Library into the front rank of institutions of its kind." Mr. Anderson soon returned to librarianship as Director of the New York State Library, in Albany, to be followed by a long period as Director of the New York Public Library.

The Second Decade, 1905-1915

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