$2 Million Awarded to Urban Public Libraries Celebrating Andrew Carnegie’s Philanthropic Career

In honor of the seven recipients of the first Andrew Carnegie Medals of Philanthropy, Carnegie Corporation of New York's Board of Trustees approved a $2 million grant to enhance book collections in public libraries based in cities in which the honorees reside. The awardees are among the most illustrious in the history of philanthropy and include: Ambassadors Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg on behalf of the Annenberg Foundation, Brooke Astor, Irene Diamond, the Gates family, David and Laurance S. Rockefeller on behalf of the Rockefeller family, George Soros and Ted Turner. The awardees live in three East Coast cities—Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York City—and Seattle, Washington.

The awards ceremony took place at the New York Public Library on December 10, 2001, symbolizing the great importance Mr. Carnegie placed on libraries. The New York Public Library had received $5.2 million on December 4, 1901 from Mr. Carnegie towards the planning of branch libraries throughout the five boroughs of New York City. He spent over $55 million of his wealth on building over 2,500 libraries throughout the world.

"The best way to launch these medals is not with a bang, but with a book," said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, referring to the launch of the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy which will be given every two years. "To Andrew Carnegie, it was not an exaggeration to say that the public library ‘outranks any other one thing that a community can do to help its people.'"

"We believe the awardees represent a diverse cross section of philanthropic commitments and geographic locations, as well as old and new views of giving. December 10th offered us an opportunity to showcase the ideals of the remarkable people who are following an ideal forged by Mr. Carnegie. By celebrating his work and theirs, we would like to make a contribution to the communities in which they reside," Gregorian said.

New York City, home to four of the awardees—Brooke Astor, Irene Diamond, the Rockefeller family and George Soros—will receive $1.5 million for its three library systems, The New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library Foundation and the Queens Library Foundation. The New York Public Library, which serves the boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, along with the separate Brooklyn and Queens library systems, will receive three-year grants of $900,000, $300,000 and $300,000 respectively. Atlanta, home of Ted Turner will receive a one-year grant of $100,000; Philadelphia, home of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, will receive a two-year grant of $200,000; and Seattle, home of the Gates family will receive a two-year grant of $200,000.

The libraries and their areas of focus are:

  • Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System for expanding the international book collection.
  • Brooklyn Public Library Foundation, Inc. for expanding the book collections for children and young adults
  • Free Library of Philadelphia for expanding the fiction and non-fiction book collection for teens.
  • New York Public Library for acquiring books for branch libraries and research libraries.
  • Queens Library Foundation, Inc. for expanding the book collection of the International Resource Center.
  • Seattle Public Library Foundation to purchase books in Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and Russian.

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding." As a grantmaking foundation, the Corporation seeks to carry out Carnegie's vision of philanthropy, which he said should aim "to do real and permanent good in the world." The Corporation's capital fund, originally donated at a value of about $135 million, had a market value of $1.7 billion on September 30, 2001. The Corporation awards grants totaling approximately $75 million a year in the areas of education, international peace and security, international development and strengthening U.S. democracy.