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Historicising the Carnegie Free Library: The Case of Barbados — Beverley Hinds


The Carnegie Free Library in Barbados was the first public library erected outside of the Americas or the United Kingdom. At the time it was a significant achievement, despite the political and economic climate that existed in the early 1900s in the British West Indies. It was post–emancipation and the colonies were struggling to survive after the brutal period of slavery. The events that led to the erection of a public library in Barbados are worth telling and evidence is available in various publications. There is, however, no comprehensive documentation of the events. The gap needs to be filled and this article is an attempt to do so.


Twenty–five hundred Carnegie public libraries are situated across the world, all built with money donated by Andrew Carnegie, the man known as the ‘Patron Saint of Libraries.’ Between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Andrew Carnegie funds were used to build libraries in Scotland, America, Britain and their colonies, Australia and New Zealand. These libraries are “among the most numerous public buildings in the United States.” [1]

Much documentation is available on various aspects of the Carnegie public libraries in North America and the United Kingdom. On the other hand, there is a dearth of information on those in the English–speaking Caribbean, where the importance of public libraries to the society cannot be understated. They were the first institutions to provide the public with free access to reading materials and more importantly, access was provided to a sector of the population who previously had none, and who were also denied the right to read or even to be taught how to read.

This paper is an attempt to place in historical context the Carnegie free public library in Barbados. Findings will include the events that led up to the erection of the building; an overview of the origins of public libraries generally; and an overview of the current state of the facility in Barbados.


The Carnegie public library building in Barbados was erected at the beginning of the twentieth century, right after a period of significant social change in the British West Indies that started with the abolition of the slave trade in 1834. Against the backdrop of the numerous social problems occurring in Barbados in the late nineteenth century, the governor, Sir Frederic Hodgson, led the charge to acquire funds to build a public library in the colony. It was a long process, but in 1904 Barbados became the first British colony to obtain the monies to erect a lasting monument to a man who had never visited the island. Without his intervention, it is very likely that the structure would have not have been built. Figure 1 shows the public library in the early nineteen hundreds, soon after its construction.


Figure 1: Carnegie Library, Barbados, early 1900s
Figure 1: Carnegie Library, Barbados, early 1900s.
Source: Postcard, Public Library Collection.


Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Foundation

Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland in 1835 where his father had helped to establish a tradesman’s subscription library. In 1848 the family left Dunfermline and moved to the United States and settled in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. He worked his way from bobbin boy to multi–millionaire in the steel industry. The social climate at the time in the Americas dictated that those who were fortunate enough to reap great financial rewards should share with the less fortunate members of the society, and so Carnegie joined many of his peers in the venture to use wealth for charitable purposes. Public libraries became the expression of his philanthropic endeavours. In 1881 his hometown, Dunfermline, Scotland was the first city to receive funds to build a library; in 1886, the first American city to receive a public library building grant was Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, his first home in America [2]; and in 1904, Barbados was the first English colony to receive one.

During the very early years of the twentieth century, requests for monies to build libraries were submitted to Carnegie at a rapid rate. After donating some additional building funds to towns in America, he decided to formalise the program. In 1911, the Carnegie Corporation, one of the first modern foundations, was established to administer the many library requests which were being submitted. In establishing this foundation, some changes to the original policy were instituted by his personal secretary, James Bertram, who was employed to deal with this project exclusively. Bertram fine–tuned the entire procedure. He now required those requesting funds to go through a series of steps which included answering a number of questions pertaining to the size of population of the town which the library would be serving; existing library infrastructure if any; and, number of books in the collection as well as circulation statistics. When monies were granted to build a library, Bertram even had a hand in the architectural rendition of the library. He devised a pamphlet entitled, “Notes on the Erection of Library buildings.” [3]

The Public Library Movement in Britain

Before there were free public libraries in Britain, there were social libraries, both proprietary and subscription [4]. Subscription libraries originated sometime in the seventeenth century and were generally set up by small societies to be used primarily by those who paid a subscription fee. This meant that the impoverished population were excluded from the privileges these libraries offered. It was much later, in 1797, when the economical library became available to the poor members of the society. It was “designed principally for the use and instruction of the working classes.” [5]

The free public library rose to prominence in the mid to late eighteen hundreds in Britain. This was a time of social transformation in Britain commencing with the Industrial Revolution of the late seventeen hundreds to mid eighteen hundreds, an event that paved the way for a great many changes in Britain. According to one author, “by 1850, England had become an economic titan. Its goal was to supply two–thirds of the globe with cotton spun, dyed, and woven in the industrial centers of northern England.” [6] Innovations were taking place in industries such as agriculture, transportation and manufacturing. The slave trade had ended but huge profits had been derived from the lucrative slave–driven sugar industry in the West Indies. During this time, the economy was still booming and as a result, a large population of factory workers moved from the rural areas to the town centers in search of work.

The working conditions of these largely uneducated workers were dire and the British government passed several laws to alleviate their hardships. For example, the 1831 and 1833 amendments to the 1819 Factory Act prohibited children under nine years of age from working in cotton mills and restricted those over nine to a twelve–hour day. The government introduced some educational improvements by providing grants, leading to the first major Education Act in 1870 [7]. There was agitation from some members of Parliament to establish a system of public libraries and in 1850 the Public Libraries Act was passed in Britain. William Ewart, a liberal member of Parliament from Liverpool, is credited with pushing the legislation through. In 1887, there were 133 free libraries in Britain and in 1900, there were 295. Andrew Carnegie’s gift of a large endowment to libraries in the United Kingdom in 1902 further established his continued commitment to the growth and development of public libraries. At the same time, the public library movement in the English–speaking Caribbean was also developing.

The Public Library Movement in the Eastern Caribbean

As in the British–owned territories, subscription libraries were the forerunners of public libraries in the English—speaking Caribbean. These institutions had emerged in the late eighteenth century and like their British counterparts catered only to the elite members of the society who could afford the fees. This obviously eliminated a broad segment of the society.

In Barbados, the formation of a Literary Society in 1777 is evidenced in the Laws of Barbados of 1808, on the incorporation of that society. It read in part,

“… certain inhabitants of this Island actuated by the laudable motive of encouraging and promoting literature, associated themselves together in a society by the name of the Literary Society, and whereas by long experience the said society hath been found to be very useful and beneficial to this community: And whereas the library of the said society is at this time of considerable value, and if the said society were incorporated, the affairs thereof could be more advantageously managed.” [8]

Schomburgk notes in his The History of Barbados that in addition to the Literary Society, there were other types of libraries on the island. A Library Association was founded on February 10, 1814, and incorporated under the name of the President and Members of the Library Association on April 11, 1821; a Clerical Library was established for the clergy during Bishop Coleridge’s time (mid–nineteenth century); and a library for the garrison of St. Ann’s, for the use of officers stationed there [9].

The emergence of a public library movement in the Eastern Caribbean began in the mid 1840s and it seemed that 1847 especially “was the time for establishing libraries in the colonies of the Eastern Caribbean.” [10] In July 1847, an act to establish a public library was passed in Grenada; St. Lucia in June 1847; Barbados on 21 October of the same year; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines much later in 1893. When the laws came into effect, existing libraries voluntarily handed over their books to the agencies concerned. For example, in Barbados the Literary Society and the Library Association merged in 1847 and become the Barbados Public Library; in Antigua, the Library Society became the Public Library of Antigua. In July 1847, an act to establish a public library was passed in Grenada; St. Lucia in June 1847; Barbados on 21 October of the same year; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines much later in 1893. When the laws came into effect, existing libraries voluntarily handed over their books to the agencies concerned. For example, in Barbados the Literary Society and the Library Association merged in 1847 and become the Barbados Public Library; in Antigua, the Library Society became the Public Library of Antigua.

The Barbados Act included both a library and a museum for the island. The preamble set out some fairly comprehensive conditions. It read in part:

“Whereas a public library containing a collection of books of reference and practical works, with a museum of natural and scientific subjects, and productions of art would be beneficial to the community: And whereas it is expedient that such a library and museum in connexion therewith should be established and maintained under proper regulations … .” [11]

These events were significant. The abolition of slavery in 1834 followed by the apprenticeship period which ended in 1838 necessitated a push towards religious education of the masses. The Negro Education Grant of 1835 was distributed amongst the various religious denominations to construct schools and pay teachers. In addition, the Mico Charity provided funds for the “instruction of the Negro and Coloured population of the British colonies.” [12] The establishment of a free public library in the British West Indies, where people of all classes could visit, was momentous.

Origins of the Carnegie Library in Barbados

After the act to establish the public library in Barbados had been passed in 1847, it was now incumbent upon the government to find a physical building, which took some time. The first location of a public library in Barbados was the rented properties at Codd’s House in Bridgetown, opposite the site where the Carnegie Library was eventually built [13].

An act of Parliament in April 1853 required that suitable rental quarters should be provided for a public library but it should not be priced above £40 per annum. In November of the same year, the library was removed to the house of Mr. William H. Austin in Bolton Lane and remained there until a permanent home was found in the East Wing of the Public Buildings in 1874 [14].

An Act of 1854 provided funds for the first paid librarian who would answer to a Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees comprised the Chief Justice, the Colonial Secretary and three other members, usually from the Legislature, the Church or the Bar. Over the latter part of the nineteenth century, various laws were passed to facilitate the growth of the public library. For example, where the original act of 1847 had neglected to provide any funds to purchase books, an act was passed in 1866 to provide £100 annually to correct this deficiency.

Two governors of Barbados, Sir William Reid (1846–1848) and Sir Frederic Hodgson (1900–1904), were clearly instrumental in helping to establish a free public library in Barbados. Governor Reid believed that libraries were especially beneficial to small islands that promoted self-instruction and life–long learning. He submitted a resolution for a free library in 1847, which was subsequently passed by the Legislature. The role Governor Hodgson played was noteworthy. He was largely responsible for the events that led to the actual building of the Carnegie Free Public Library on the present site in Coleridge Street.

Hodgson’s original plan was to have a library built as a memorial to Sir Conrad Reeves, the first ‘coloured’ Chief Justice of the island. In the June 1903 minutes of the House of Assembly meeting, he noted:

“The very proper proposal to establish a Memorial to the late Chief Justice, Sir Conrad Reeves, has not as yet taken any political shape. It is a matter which should be raised beyond the reach of controversy. I suggest for your consideration that a very fitting way of perpetuating his memory would be by way of the establishment in Bridgetown of a Free Public Library bearing his name. Such an institution available to all classes up to as late an hour as possible is much wanted and with your concurrence the Government Library would be handed over to the Trustees appointed for that purpose, a grant of £500 towards the purchase of a suitable building might be made and then annually voted to the Government Library for expenses voted instead to the Sir Conrad Reeves Free Library.”

A committee was appointed to look into the matter, but it is clear from Governor Hodgson’s correspondence back to the Legislature and read at their October meeting that they were not in agreement with him. He decided to pursue his plan and while visiting England in mid–1903, he sent a letter informing them that while there, he would try to raise about £1,500 by sending a letter to the Times newspaper soliciting donations from “persons to whom the distinguished career and personality of Sir Conrad Reeves would … appeal.” [15] Evidence suggests that public opposition and the lack of support from the legislature prompted him to abandon the idea of sending the letter to the Times. In a letter to the editor of the Agricultural Reporter on July 7, 1903, a reader noted that as far as he was aware, Sir Conrad Reeves was never in life associated with the public library and “can see no such connection between him and that institution as would justify its being transferred to a Committee to be run as a memorial of Sir Conrad.” Even the Conrad Reeves Committee Memorial Fund members were opposed to the idea. They could see no real connection between Sir Conrad and the library. The Chief Justice, Honourable Herbert Greaves, added that it would be impossible to secure anything suitable for £500 to accommodate the number of books already in hand.

Despite the opposition to the idea of a library dedicated to the memory of Sir Conrad Reeves, Hodgson was resolute in his belief that a public library would be a beneficial institution for the people of Barbados and if built, the public would use it. His letter asked for the Legislature’s approval to make a proposal to a Mr. Andrew Carnegie who had become well known for his gifts of money to build free libraries in towns all over England. According to the Governor, Mr. Carnegie had not yet given any money to the colonies and this seemed a good opportunity for him to do so. On August 22, 1903, he wrote Mr. Carnegie and asked for £2,500, of which £2,000 would be for the erection of the building and £500 “for fitting it up in a suitable manner.” [16] His letter to Mr. Carnegie stated that as Carnegie had taken such an active interest in the establishment of free libraries in Great Britain that he hoped that he “may be disposed to help in the establishment of a free library in Bridgetown Barbados” [17] where he [Hodgson] was Governor.

The correspondence between the two men indicated that no opposition arose to his request and he received a response four days after his letter of 22 August, 1903. He was granted the funds with two stipulations — the library should be free to all who wanted to use it and it should be maintained by the government. Mr. Carnegie wrote:

“in regard to the Free Public Library for Bridgetown Barbados … If you agree to make the library free, and on the understanding that the Government will continue its support of the Library at the rate as now, I shall be glad to comply with your request that I should give twenty five hundred pounds (sterling) to erect a Free Public Library Building.” [18]

The evidence of the events that took place between Mr. Hodgson and Mr. Carnegie was revealed in the correspondence between the two men. In a letter to the Legislature in February, 1904, Hodgson revealed that he had managed to have the funds increased to £4,800 by explaining to Mr. Carnegie that the amount of money previously granted could, “only suffice to erect a building of an unpretentious character.” [19] He added that a site would be submitted to the Legislature for approval and that a design, which was inspired by the plan of the Free Public Library at Southampton in the United Kingdom, had been prepared by the Superintendent of Public Works and sent to them for inspection.

Now that money had become available, an executive committee was set up to decide on a feasible site for the location of the library. In February 1904, a letter from the Governor to the Legislature revealed that the committee had identified five plots of government land as possible sites for the location of the library. The sites were: the Gardens in Trafalgar Square; St Mary’s (Jubilee) Gardens; Reef Lands; the grounds adjacent to the Old Town Hall; and Bay Street lands [20].

All of these locations are located in Bridgetown and two of them are easily identifiable and still in existence. The Gardens in Trafalgar Square, now called National Heroes Square, is located across from the Parliament Buildings, and St. Mary’s (Jubilee) Gardens is located at the lower end of Broad Street across from St. Mary’s Anglican Church. Reef Lands and the grounds across from the Old Town Hall are not as easily identifiable. Reef Lands is most likely the area in Fontabelle now called Reef Road which lies to the west and named for its close proximity to the reef that fringes the coast [21]; the grounds across from the Old Town Hall, located in Coleridge Street, are most likely the area next to Codd’s House which was demolished in 1985 [22]. The Bay Street Lands are likely to be the area in Bay Street where the Government Headquarters building still stands. The selection of this site in Bay Street was the source of a great deal of debate between many members of the Legislature. Proponents held that it was Government land and should be used and others thought that it was too far from the main centre of the city to be a viable location for the library.

This same letter from the Governor revealed that the committee had struck down all but two of the sites which had been proposed. The Gardens in Trafalgar Square, though central, was not a practical location because the site was too close to the Engineering Works, which was noisy and the smoke emitted from it would damage the books; additionally, the library structure would obstruct the Public Buildings. Reef Lands was too far outside of the main business center and it did not offer an appropriate site for the type of building they hoped to erect. The land across from the Old Town Hall site was said to be below sea level and the appearance of the building would be dwarfed [23]. The committee decided that a choice would have to be made between St. Mary’s Gardens and the Bay Street Lands. After further discussion, the site on Bay Street was discarded because they believed that, even though it was a good site with an uninterrupted sea view and the erection of a Public library would improve the neighbourhood, it was just too far outside of the central area and too far away from the very people whom the library would be serving. Some members of the executive committee thought that the location of St. Mary’s Gardens would be the most appropriate site for the following reasons: it was conveniently located in the central business area; the library would benefit from the gardens which would be left after the library was constructed; library users could take their books and sit on the benches which would be placed under the trees and around the building; and since the Gardens had only existed for a relatively short time, there were no historical traditions to be considered in connection with them. The committee had no hesitation in deciding upon this site [24]. This recommendation did not sit well with some members of the Legislature, however, and was not adopted.

While the Legislature was having difficulty coming to a decision, the public and local newspapers, especially the Weekly Recorder, were becoming increasingly irate at the inability to decide on a site for the library. For the duration of the proceedings, the paper carried a caption in bold type on the front page: DEBATE ON SITE FOR FREE LIBRARY. A letter to the editor in the newspaper of January 30, 1904 reported that a reader wanted to know what plans the government had with regard to the ‘Free Library.’ He said he was aware that the Gardens belonged to the government for the people of Barbados and therefore there could be no injustice in using a portion of it for erecting a building for the library. He suggested that a substantial three–storey stone–wall building of a dimension to fit the spot could be erected on the site for about £1,250, with the remaining £750 for accessories. He believed that had the upper–class in Barbados taken more interest in the library, it would have been established years ago. He went on to invite all those in the middle–class to let their voices be heard in the matter so that “his Excellency the Governor may see that the interest he takes in this country is appreciated and to Mr. Carnegie that we are grateful for his great kindness.”

This letter was followed by an editorial in the same paper of Saturday, February 13, 1904, where there was a clear indication that other members of the public did not favour the St. Mary’s location because some thought that it would deface the area in order for the library to be built. “Some persons have argued that as this Garden and the Fountain Garden are the only two open spots of the kind in this city and we are so much in need of more of these areas it would be doing the city an injustice to do away with one of them under any circumstances.” The editor, however, disagreed with this segment of his readers who favoured Bay Street lands over the St. Mary’s location. He was clearly in favour of the St. Mary’s site. In a March 19th editorial he said that the building

“should be located in a central location to serve the purpose for which it was intended; it should serve as an attractive central resort, where those who care little of reading and such pursuits as well as those who already find the use of a library a daily necessity should have easy access to, and so swell the ranks of the intellectually inclined citizens of the community.”

He added that there was no reason why the majority of the users and those who could least afford it should have to pay four pence to take a tram to Bay Street or walk the two miles there and back.

During the time, there were discussions on purchasing land to build the library. At a meeting of the Legislative Council on March 15, 1904 the matter was discussed again and another long debate ensued regarding the library site. At the end of the session, the Bay Street site emerged as the desired location. A meeting of the House of Assembly on March 26, 1904 revealed that there was still no final decision concerning the location. It seemed that there would be no end to the discussion.

The matter was finally settled by the Governor at a meeting of the House of Assembly on April 12, 1904. He indicated that the state of the financial condition of the island precluded them spending money on a site for the library, despite the funds that had been received from Mr. Carnegie. He said:

“While fully recognizing the public spirit with which your Honourable House has been animated, I do not think that in the present financial condition of the colony, and when it also owes money to the local Bank, it would be wise to make expenditure in the purchase of a site.”

However, he chose neither Bay Street nor the St. Mary’s site. He thought that the library could be erected on the Parade Grounds adjacent to the Old Town Hall which were government lands. The resolution was finally passed.

After all of the extensive discussions were settled, the cornerstone for the construction of the library was laid on September 15, 1904 at the site on Coleridge Street, lands adjoining the Old Town Hall. A Barbadian, Mr. E. F. S. Bowen, the Superintendent of Public Works, prepared the plans and supervised the construction. The Weekly Recorder of September 17, 1904 reported that it was a prestigious affair attended by “a large number of influential men and a fair complement of ladies.” The gathering included Governor Hodgson and his wife; the Colonial Secretary, S. W. Knaggs; the acting Chief Justice, W. K. Chandler; the Comptroller of Customs, P. L. Dillon; the Public Librarian; the Colonial Postmaster, and many others.

The newspaper added that a large plan of the building was displayed to the visitors showing a T–shaped two–storey stone structure. It measured 115 feet long by 89 feet externally and 60 by 33 feet internally; the reading and news rooms were 20 by 13 feet, 6 inches each; and an entrance porch 20 by 13 feet, 6 inches; with ionic columns of the Greek classical design. Above the library and on the second storey, there was a lecture room 60 by 34 by 18 feet in height. A steel truss roof had been ordered from England and the window frames were locally made. All of the timber required for the building was imported from the firm of Collymore & Wright, lumber merchants in Bridgetown.

The first Carnegie library to be erected in the British West Indies was officially opened on Friday, January 26, 1906, by Governor Sir Gilbert Carter. Several notable members of society attended the opening. Among them were the trustees of the Public Library; His Lordship Bishop Swaby; the Chief Justice Sir Herbert Greaves; the Colonial Secretary and many others. The Bishop, who was Chairman of the Board of Trustees, declared the library open. The Governor sent a letter thanking Mr. Carnegie for the funds; he remarked that “the building is a handsome and substantial structure and makes a useful addition to the buildings of Bridgetown.” [25] The editor in the Weekly Recorder of February 3, 1906, praised the opening of the library but wondered whether the Legislature were fully committed to the library as insufficient funds had been committed for its maintenance. He noted:

“We are in favour of opening the library at night, and most hope that the institution will be dealt with liberally by the Legislature. Our Public Library has never been valued at its true worth by the powers that be. It was always possible to make it a centre of intellectual life and activity but it has been systematically starved. It almost seemed as if Government did not care to see the masses participating in literary advantages.”

The editor had been an ardent supporter of the establishment of a public library from the very beginning and saw the library as a place where the “masses could participate in literary advantages.” He went on to give credit to the work done by Sir Frederic Hodgson whose name, he said, “would always be associated with such success.”

Recent history

The Carnegie public library building at the time it was erected was a grand architectural edifice in Bridgetown. For the majority of the twentieth century, it was the place where children discovered their love for books and reading; the place where students found their research materials; where the public visited to find popular magazines and daily newspapers and where researchers could find a wealth of information. It remains the country’s legal repository for Barbadiana. It was almost impossible to do serious research without visiting the Carnegie public library.

Some additional departments were added to the original structure. In 1949, a school library’s department was added followed by a reference section in 1961. However, there was never a major drive towards preserving the original Carnegie structure which housed the circulation department, reading room and the children’s department.

The lack of maintenance over the years resulted in continuous deterioration of the building and uncomfortable working conditions for the staff. This structure, now over one hundred years old, had quite simply outlived its original purpose. It was no longer suitable for the needs of a modern public library and finally, in August 2006, after it became the subject of industrial action due to unsafe environmental conditions, the doors of the Carnegie library were closed to the public. Figure 2 shows the façade of the public library after its closure.


Figure 2: Carnegie Library Barbados -- Facade
Figure 2: Carnegie Library Barbados — Facade.
Source: Photograph by author April 24, 2008.


On a visit to the library in October 2007, Dr. Henry Fraser, past president of the Barbados National Trust, reported on the state of the building. He examined the ancient sash windows, doors, interior and the roof. He found that most of the windows were fixed in place; there were leaks which resulted in mould and moss growing in various areas; cracked ceilings; two extensive areas where the mouldings around the upstairs ceiling had come away; lost and missing pieces of decorative plaster mouldings in the children’s section, and sagging windows. The photographs in Figures 3 to 6 bear witness to some of the damage that occurred over the years.


Figure 3: Carnegie Library Barbados. Ceiling in the Children's Department
Figure 3:Carnegie Library Barbados. Ceiling in the Children’s Department.
Source: Photograph by author April 12, 2008.



Figure 4: Carnegie Library Barbados. Damaged walls
Figure 4:Carnegie Library Barbados. Damaged walls.
Source: Photograph by author April 12, 2008.



Figure 5: Carnegie Library Barbados. Floor in the Children's Department
Figure 5:Carnegie Library Barbados. Floor in the Children’s Department.
Source: Photograph by author April 12, 2008.



Figure 6: Carnegie Library Barbados. Damaged walls
Figure 6:Carnegie Library Barbados. Damaged walls.
Source: Photograph by author April 12, 2008.


The library remained closed for two years while the government sought to find a suitable location. In September 2008, new quarters were found in Independence Square, Bridgetown and the National Library Service reopened for business. In his address at the opening, the Minister of Culture, Mr. Steve Blackett, promised that the Carnegie Public Library would be refurbished and reopened by the end of the current administration’s first term in office.

Current developments

At a public meeting after the reopening of the library in Independence Square, Minister Blackett reiterated the government’s commitment to Carnegie’s legacy. He promised that both the building’s functional use as a library, as well as the historical and architectural integrity of the structure, would be preserved. At the time, he said that the building would be included among those put forward in the nomination dossier seeking to have historic Bridgetown and the Garrison designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

Unfortunately, the refurbishment of the Carnegie library has been placed on hold.

The Daily Nation newspaper of January 6, 2010, reported that the Mr. Blackett said in a telephone interview that “due to the current financial situation, it was going to be difficult to restore the Carnegie Building, on Coleridge Street, right now.” He went on to say that it would be too costly an exercise to tackle in the current financial year. However, he hoped that it would be something that could be addressed in the future.

We continue to await the rebirth of what Professor Henry Fraser called in the Daily Nation on August 5, 2007 “one of the seven magnificent buildings in Bridgetown.”


1. Abigail A. Van Slyck, Free to All: Carnegie Libraries & American Culture, 1890–1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), xix.

2. Ibid., 11.

3. Ibid., 35.

4. Encyclopedia of Library & Information Science, 2nd ed. (New York: Marcel Dekker, 2003): 2580.

5. Thomas Kelly. Early Public Libraries: A History of Libraries in Great Britain before 1850 (London: Library Association, 1966): 120.

6. Steven Kreis. “The Origins of the Industrial Revolution in England.” The History Guide, July 25, 2002, (accessed April 16, 2008).

7. Chris Cook. The Longman Companion to Britain in the Nineteenth Century, 1815–1914 (London: Longman. 1999), 119.

8. Laws of Barbados, 1666–1858.

9. Robert H. Schomburgk. The History of Barbados (London: Brown, Green and Longmans, 1848), 132–133.

10. Edwin Ifill. “The Public Library Movement in Barbados and Jamaica from the Middle of the 19th Century to the Present Day” (thesis, Jamaica: UWI, Mona 1968), 6.

11. Laws of Barbados, 1847.

12. Isaac Dookhan. A Post–emancipation History of the West Indies (London: Collins, 1975), 70.

13. National Library Service. Brief History of the National Library Service, [Bridgetown: 2000].

14. Ibid.

15. Barbados House of Assembly Minutes, October 1903.

16. Barbados House of Assembly Minutes, October 1903.

17. Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Papers. Series 11A.1.a. Free Public Library Buildings, Letter from Governor Hodgson to Andrew Carnegie. August 22, 1903.

18. Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Papers. Series 11A.1.a. Free Public Library Buildings, Letter from Governor Hodgson to Andrew Carnegie. August 26, 1903.

19. Barbados House of Assembly Minutes February, 1904.

20. Barbados. Legislative Debates, Session 1903–1904.

21. “Barbadian Place Names,” The Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society 25 (May 1958): 137.

22. Henry Fraser and Sean Carrington, A–Z of Barbadian Heritage (Kingston, Jamaica: Heinemann, 1990), 41.

23. Barbados. Legislative Debates, Session 1903–1904.

24. Ibid.

25. Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Papers. Series 11A.1.a. Free Public Library Buildings, Letter from Governor Hodgson to Andrew Carnegie. August 22, 1903.


Augier, F. R., et al. The Making of the West Indies. London: Longman, 1960.

“Barbadian Place Names.” The Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society 25 (1958).

Barbados. Legislative Debates, Session 1903–1904.

Beckles, Hilary. Great House Rules. Kingston: Ian Randle, 2004.

Carnegie Corporation of New York. Carnegie Papers. Columbia University. Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, Butler Library, New York.

Cook, Chris. The Longman Companion to Britain in the Nineteenth Century, 1815–1914. London: Longman, 1999.

Dookhan, Isaac. A Post–emancipation History of the West Indies. London: Collins, 1975.

Encyclopedia of Library & Information Science, 2nd ed. New York: Marcel Dekker, 2003.

Fraser, Henry, and Sean Carrington. A–Z of Barbadian Heritage. Jamaica: Heinemann, 1990.

Ifill, Edwin. “The Public Library Movement in Barbados and Jamaica from the Middle of the 19th Century to Present Day.” Thesis, Jamaica: UWI Mona, 1968.

Kelly, Thomas. Early Public Libraries: A History of Libraries in Great Britain before 1850. London: Library Association, 1969.

Laws of Barbados, 1666–1858. Barbados: Barclay & Fraser.

Martin, Robert Sidney, ed. Carnegie Denied: Communities Rejecting Carnegie Library Construction Grants, 1898–1925. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.

National Library Service. Brief History of the National Library Service. [Bridgetown, 2000].

Schomburgk, Robert H. The History of Barbados. London: Brown, Green and Longmans, 1848.

Van Slyck, Abigail A. Free to All: Carnegie Libraries & American Culture, 1890–1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

About the author

Beverley Hinds is the Librarian at the Audine Wilkinson Library, Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Bridgetown, Barbados. Her interests include the development of public libraries in the Eastern Caribbean. She is currently researching corporate libraries in Barbados.
E–mail: beverley [dot] hinds [at] cavehill [dot] uwi [dot] edu