Stories within Stories

I am currently listening to John Banville’s award-winning novel, The Sea, on CD. I borrowed it from the library in Lismore ~ a town at the other end of Co. Waterford from Tramore. The library system is brilliant in Co. Waterford now as the one library card allows one to borrow from any of the libraries in Waterford City and County. (This is because of changes in local administration a few years ago.)

When I’m travelling around Co. Waterford now, I always make sure that I have my library card with me and have taken to paying visits to the various libraries in different towns I happen to be in.

The library in Lismore is a beautiful building:

Lismore Library, Co. Waterford.
Lismore Library, Co. Waterford.

It was one of the many libraries in Ireland which was funded by philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.

Plaque on Wall by Lismore Library, Co. Waterford
Plaque on Wall by Lismore Library, Co. Waterford

I’ve been reading more and more about Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) since I was in Lismore Library and am absolutely fascinated by his life and the fact that there are probably readers of this blog from across the globe who are also fortunate enough to be users of a Carnegie Library.

Andrew Carnegie was born in Scotland, the son of a weaver. He emigrated with his family to America when he was 13, and went on to be a self-made steel tycoon ( not without issues arising over worker’s pay.)

In 1901, Carnegie sold his steel company for $200 million ~which seems like an enormous sum for that time. He got involved in philanthropy and had a special interest in funding libraries~ approximately 2,800 were funded by him in America, Britain and Ireland.

I was thrilled when I found John Banville’s, The Sea, in the library in Lismore as I’d been on the look out for it for a while. Lismore is one of Waterford’s inland towns ( a heritage town) and it felt right that The Sea should be there waiting for me.  The novel itself is very much a story within a story and I don’t want it to end as I love the masterful use of language within it and the fact that it makes me feel so connected to library users who have benefitted from Andrew Carnegie’s donations. (Where I get books matters a lot to me! I don’t know if other people feel like that about them?)

I’ve been a library person since I was a kid hooked on Enid Blyton’s Famous Fives and Secret Sevens. I suspect I’ve used other Carnegie Libraries in my time but didn’t realise it.

I’d love to hear about your library especially if it has a connection to Andrew Carnegie, or indeed if you have been in any other buildings associated with him. 




Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and sense of place.

16 thoughts on “Stories within Stories”

  1. I’ve visited two Carnegie Libraries in Vermont. They were in towns I was living in at the time: Montpelier and Burlington. I knew he had funded libraries in the U.S. Never realized he had contributed to libraries in Ireland. How lovely!

    1. Hi Sue, the mere mention of Vermont leaves me weak at the knees after seeing all the great photos of Autumn colour there. It’s stunning to think of Carnegie Libraries there too. Thanks for telling me.

  2. I love Libraries and book-shops and we are so lucky to have three local libraries in our area. The staff are wonderful and all are knowledgeable about genealogy issues…but I must say I haven’t availed myself of talking books…must look into this…I love the photo, it puts me in mind of the Northcote, Victoria Library which was really quite a grand old building:)

  3. Our library use to be in the old building that houses the offices of the town collector and various other town offices. I remember this library well as it had a wrought iron spiral staircase and glass cubes for a floor ..I was quite uneasy walking on these as they let in difused light. The new library was later built on land where an old school was but had been destroyed by a fire. The new library is all on one floor and offers many things such as different programs for those who are interested, speakers and authors, craft classes. They have a friends of the library of which I’m a member indirectly (by membership dues once a year). This then helps the library in many different ways from new books, to museum passes for free for those who want to take advantage of them. Also programs dealing with things of interest to the town people. They have adult and childrens programs. Another library is in the city of Quincy MA which has had two presidents that served John Adams and John Quincy Adams. The library is called the Thomas Crane Library, this was built from a huge donation from his family. I had to go online to find out just whom he was. He was a stone cutter that became successful from his choice of work, bought up land developed it. Never forgot the city that he moved to as a child. He was born on one of the islands off the coast of MA. The architecture of that library is beautiful I believe made from granite which was his profession. It houses a great selection of books. I haven’t been there since I was in junior high school, but your picture and story brought back memories.

    1. Joni, I’m delighted to have brought back happy memories.
      Libraries certainly seem to draw the attention of philanthropists and it’s great the way they serve the community in all sorts of ways.

  4. I don’t think that I had been to any libraries connected with him, but I do appreciate our small local library as it has won state awards and has great book sales twice a year. Perhaps America is fortunate that he came to this country though he was not without his flaws.

    1. CC, oh I think America was fortunate in the overall sense, especially as his fortunes were poured back into the community.
      Those book sales you mention sound very inviting!

  5. What a lovely idea to visit libraries. I love the old ones, but the places I have lived have mainly had new libraries that I find to be cold and boring. Even with books inside. 😦 And, no, definitely no Carnegie connections.

    1. Hi Luanne, libraries have just been part of my life always but the fact that the one card covers a host of libraries across Co. Waterford is very appealing indeed (and you can return the books to any library).
      I agree that older libraries have more character but the new ones are cool in terms of the technology they offer. It’s good to have a mixture.

  6. I love libraries too but hardly ever visit them. I live in a very French town so the English books are limited – though I do read in French as well. My favourite library is the Westmount one. It is old and huge and filled with oodles and oodles of English books! Too bad it is too far for me to truly use.
    I love that one card can be used in more than one library. Brilliant!

  7. What a charming library! Our local library is lovely as well (not as cute as this one though and also has a sharing system with the libraries from the other local towns). It’s a good idea.
    I’ve been to Carnegie Hall in New York City often to listen to music (I live just outside of NYC).

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