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Carnegie Library in Puerto Rico

In the year 1903 a small library was constructed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which preserved books and documents that dated back to 1898. It was known as the Island Library. With funding donated by Andrew Carnegie, Ramon Carbia, a Puerto Rican architect, was commissioned by the Governor at the time, Arthur Yager, to design a new library and in 1914 construction on this library began. The library was named the Carnegie Library and all the contents from the Island Library were transferred to the new structure.

The Carnegie Library is located in the Puerta de Tierra sector of the city, and in the first forty years of existence, the library enjoyed a large number of daily visitors. As the years wore on, the library began to fall into disrepair, leading to the entire collection being moved to the Secretary of Education and the closing of the library in 1965. Restoration and alterations on the structure began in 1969, and took twenty years to complete, due to funding being limited. Unfortunately, Hurricane Hugo, which hit the island in 1989, caused damage not only to the structure but to some of its collection as well.

Citizens and various professionals yearned to see the library reopened. Together they set about restoring the library yet again, and restoration took place between the years of 1992 and 1995. They tried to maintain the structure’s original integrity and it therefore still remains a beautifully restored neo-classical building that is constructed in a rectangle and is a two storey library.

On approaching the library visitors will see six Doric columns, including a recessed portico, at the main entrance, and the building also displays other facades, as well as five massive doors that fill the arches and glazed tiles complete the four gable roof of the Carnegie Library.

The interior has been immaculately restored with the ground floor boasting a full collection of books and documents that visitors can peruse at their leisure in the reading rooms, of which there is one on each side of the first level. Two creative staircases, which still feature the wooden balustrades from the original building, take visitors to the second level of the Carnegie Library.

On the second level the library offers a preserved vestibule, reading rooms, exhibition room, reference room, information centre and audiovisual resources room. Children will find all they long for in the Ramon Mellado Parsons Children's room, and visitors can also research old newspapers and magazines on the second floor. Carnegie Library was registered as a Historic Place in 1983 by the United States Department of the Interior's National Register.


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