Tonight I visited the new Bangor Carnegie Library for a reception to celebrate the library's success in the Public Library Awards 2009. The awards focus on library building design, good practice, overall management and public usgae and the Bangor library was shortlisted in the 'Architecture meets Practicality' category.
The original two-storey library building was erected in 1909 as a joint Public Library and Technical School project and as the library part of it was funded by a Carnegie grant it became known as the Carnegie Library. Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was born in Scotland and then emigrated from there to america as a child. He made a vast fortune as an indutrialist and businessman and eventually gave away most of his money to establish schools, libraries and universities.
The project involved a major refurbishment of the old library building and the consttruction of a large modern extension. The enhanced building is one of the largest public libraries in Northern Ireland and since reopening the number of people using the library has increased. It is now the second most used library in Northern Ireland.
Since DCAL was set up ten years ago, eleven new libraries have been opened and there have been many other refurbishments, including Bangor. The work is ongoing and Antrim will open to the public shortly. Work is also underway on the Dungiven and Whitehead libraries. Overall my department will invest around £17 million on library buildings over the current budget period and there will also be a large sum earmarked for a new Central Library in Belfast.
The other speakers at the reception were Irene Knox, the chief executive, and David Elliott, the chair of Libraries NI. Afterwards I had a tour of the facilites, which are very impressive and attractive. This is a good example of what a modern library should be like and also a good example of how the old can be retained and combined with the new.