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In Their Own Words

February 02, 1899

Carnegie Letter on Atlanta Public Library

Members of Atlanta’s Young Men’s Library Association had launched a campaign earlier to encourage city official to fund a public library for Atlanta residents. After the president of Y.M.L.A. saw reports of Andrew Carnegie funding libraries in other cities, the organization invited Walter M. Kelley, who represented Carnegie Steel Corp. interests in the Southeast, to sit on the board of directors of the Y.M.L.A. Subsequently, members encouraged Kelley to use his influence with Carnegie to obtain financial support for a library in Atlanta. On Feb. 2, 1899, Carnegie wrote Kelley the following letter:

“In reply to yours just received, it will give me great pleasure to present Atlanta with $100,000 to build a free public library, provided the city finds a site and agrees to maintain it at a cost of not less than $5000 per year.

“I leave the subject with you and will provide the money as you spend it, but everything must be attended to be the authorities of Atlanta. I can do nothing but provide the money and look to you to give proper attention to the matter.

“I have especial pleasure in doing some of the South, a portion of the country to which I have been much attached and in whose problems I am deeply interested.”

Source: Franklin M. Garrett, Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969 reprint of 1954 original volume), Vol. II, p. 376.