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. I vividly remember some of the books I found here as a child. There was one on Shakespeare’s flowers that I wish they still had.

    1. If you imagine the cloud on the left as a tall hat with a face in profile facing right, that’s what I saw when I took the picture. There’s also a dog if you look at where the forehead would be, but in a different way.

  1. I can see two faces – I always have had an overactive imagination thanks to many many days spent in a library as a child!

  2. The last march I went on was to help retain our local library. We’ve still got it but with much reduced access, just 3 and a half days per week, closed lunchtimes, but it’s better than nothing and the willing service is still good although no substitute for the trained librarians who lost their jobs.
    Loved your squares, the clouds are amazing and I could wrap myself in them.

  3. I too was brought up on libraries, and I too went through a phase when they weren’t part of my life. But I love them once more, and rely on them for all that new fiction which isn’t yet in paperback, as well as so much else. Use ’em or lose ’em! Your Carnegie library looks particularly lovely. What a fabulous legacy those Carnegie Libraries are!

  4. My Iowa town had a Carnegie Library, and during my middle school years, I was a Junior Librarian there. I miss card catalogues, and dusty stacks, and the hush of a ‘real’ library. Your cupola looks as though it belongs on a basilica; we thought of our libraries as temples, for sure!

  5. I, too, would have shrieked at the snake. 😉 As for libraries…I can’t imagine what life would be like without them. They nourish both the spirit and the intellect. How poor we would be without libraries.

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