Darwen’s Carnegie Library at Dusk and a Cloud

Darwen Carnegie Library silhouetted at dusk

My sister and I grew up in a family were books were valued. A fair amount of what came our way as spending money was converted to paperback books and we topped up what we could afford with regular trips to the local library.

Over the years I fell out of the habit of using Darwen Library, but one good thing to come out of the last eighteen months is that I have been making good use of the service, which is far better than I remembered. Online reservations make the catalogue of our local group of libraries easy to access and members can read a broad range of magazines online and listen to audiobooks.

I’ve really appreciated the kindness and thoughtfulness of the staff and volunteers at Darwen Library throughout the pandemic and feel sure they have been a lifeline for many.

Not much of Darwen is flat and the library’s irregular design was made to suit the hilly street it crests. While the building is three stories high on some sides, a reader enters the library at street level from the top via a bridge that leads to the main entrance, giving the effect of a moat.

The Grade II listed building has a revivalist Baroque style and features a copper dome and finial over the octagonal cupola. It was opened on the 27th May 1908 by Andrew Carnegie who donated money for 2,509 libraries worldwide. Darwen Library remains largely true to the design and is one of the few to still have some of the original bookshelves and the traditional librarian’s service desk with its wood and glass screen.

Most pictures online show Darwen Library in the daytime, but it is just as charismatic at night. I love the way light shines through the windows in the cupola as the sun falls.

Mum was a librarian here as a young woman. In those days before the internet made searching a compulsion, she never knew what might be brought in to her for identification and remembers one man who opened his bag to reveal a live snake that he’d found on the moors. It’s a good job she doesn’t find them scary: had it been me, the peace of the library would have been shattered with a shriek.

I’m sharing this for Becky’s PastSquares.

And as libraries foster the imagination, I’m adding a bonus picture of a face in the clouds. I’m sure at least some of you can spot it.

A face in the clouds

34 Replies to “Darwen’s Carnegie Library at Dusk and a Cloud”

  1. What glories! Both photos lift me up! I grew up with a library as big as a postage stamp and it was a red-letter day when I was deemed old enough to ride my bike there. Many, many the summer bike ride to that revered little building. It had a nice librarian, something you couldn’t say about the big library in the next town. As for the clouds, I see a puppy’s face as he leaps to the other side, and he’s having great fun!

    1. He is! There are actually two faces, but I didn’t want to complicate things. If you can ignore the puppy’s eyes, convert its mouth to eyes, perhaps with glasses, you can then follow down to see a nose, open mouth (with breath) and chin in profile. The whole is topped with a tall hat. Quite Dr Seuss, I thought.

      1. Goodness! Now I’m seeing a face with a beard and almost skull-like eyes, all on the side of the puppy dog. And, yes! I do see the face in profile — with breath, no less! What a great cloud!

  2. Libraries have played an important part in my life, starting with the Carnegie library in the town near my childhood home. Brilliant places, especially when they have all sorts of old books and newspaper archives… 🙂

  3. I grew up in a small town in Northern Ohio. We had a Carnegie library, also domed. It was my second home. One of my best friend’s mother was a librarian there. The library is still there, though the interior has been updated. We have a beautiful library in our current small town, and I love it. Just the smell of walking into a library….

    1. It’s amazing how many people have mentioned one in their town. Did yours have a verdigris dome? Ours used to be a beautiful, soft green-blue.

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