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About K100 - Pauline Barfield, Senior Information Manager, Keighley Reference Library

K100 started life as a working title for Keighley Library Centenary Celebrations but by general consensus became the logo for the year. The idea was to capture people’s imagination and draw them into exploring further. Also the K stands for Keighley, not just the Library and the town is justifiably proud of this fine building.

Keighley Public Library has the distinction of being the first Carnegie library in England. Our benefactor, Andrew Carnegie was a Scot who emigrated to America and made a fortune in the steel industry; having made his millions he proceeded to give them away.

A few years ago I coined the phrase ‘Men of Power’ to describe the group of business men who ran Keighley’s affairs throughout much of the nineteenth century both in Parliament and on the Board of Health and, from 1882, the Borough Council. One of these ‘Men of Power’ was Sir Swire Smith who was prominent in the promotion of adult education and the Mechanics Institute. He was able to promote the achievements of the students nationally through giving evidence to the Taunton Committee and he travelled extensively through Europe examining their systems of adult education. More importantly for Keighley Library he was a friend of Andrew Carnegie and the story goes that one night in 1899 at Skibo Castle, Carnegie’s Scottish home, as the men sat over their port after dinner the conversation turned to adult education. Sir Swire said how well Keighley students had done winning prizes nationally but what was desperately needed was a public library! Carnegie immediately said that as Keighley was prepared to help itself he would help Keighley by giving £10,000 for a library.

The Borough Council was to provide the site and adopt the Free Library Act. An architectural competition was held and the design of McKewan & Swann of Manchester was chosen. They were paid £50 for the design which was described as “Edwardian Free Style with Arts and Crafts infuence, which presages future 20th century developments in architecture more than it reflects 19th century eclecticism” (Sarr, 1980)

In 1901 Andrew Carnegie was granted the Freedom of the Borough and Sir Swire Smith laid the foundation stone in 1902. On the 20th August 1904 the resplendent new building was opened by the Duke of Devonshire.

The Library has seen many changes over the past 100 years. The First Floor was originally a Reading Room and Art Gallery and only became the Reference Library in 1912, open access to the books was not introduced until 1922, an extension was built for a children’s library and lecture hall in 1961 and the Lending Library and Reading Room underwent a major refurbishment in 1972. In the 1990s the children’s library was moved back into the main library and the vacated space occupied by the Schools Library Service. In 1920 the Library introduced Tuesday half day closing which lasted for over 80 years, only being abolished in November 2003.

In 1974 Keighley Borough disappeared and became part of Bradford Metropolitan Council and the Library became the headquarters for the area covering Bingley, Thornton, Denholme, Silsden etc. Fred Taylor, who had been Chief Librarian from 1946, retired and was replaced by Geoffrey Kitching from Ilkley.

Librarianship itself has changed over the century, no longer do assistants go round saying ‘Ssh’ to everyone and the answer to a question is as likely to be found on the Internet as in a book. We loan videos, CDs and DVDs and talk of Best Value Review and performance indicators.

A major strength of the library is the Local and Family History collection. Many students have been grateful to past librarians who have encouraged the people of the area to donate their family and business papers to the Archive collection which is housed in the Library and they are still doing so today. The wealth of material for researching the local area is amazing.

The aim of our Centenary Celebrations is to look beyond the building and to demonstrate the excellent work carried out by friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff.

Events to celebrate the Centenary are taking place throughout the year. A programme has not been printed yet as it is still evolving. The first event in February was a Mushaira which was a great success and there has been a strong local history theme in a series of talks culminating in a Local and Family History Day which is to be held in the Lecture Hall on the 22nd of May.

The first children’s event is a joint venture as part of the Bradford Book Festival and is a Family Reading day on the 29th May with our Library and Information Officers holding storytelling and activity sessions in the morning and Bradford author Roop Singh entertaining them in the afternoon. More events for our younger readers will be held during the summer leading up to the 20th August which is the most important day of the year. Also part of the Bradford Book Festival is a talk by Julie Myerson in the Reference Library on Wednesday 9th June. Appropriately she has just published a book on tracing the history of her house.

We are very pleased to welcome the Marquess of Hartington, son of the present Duke of Devonshire, to lead our celebrations on the 20th August with a reopening of the Library followed by a Civic Reception. Entertainment will be provided in the Town Hall Square.

During the autumn guest authors with local connections are giving talks including Lesley Horton and Juliette Barker.

Finally, we look forward to the next 100 years. The future looks promising as money has been made available by Bradford Council for a major refurbishment and the process of consultation is underway. The stock of the Children’s Library has been completely replaced and emphasis placed on increasing issues in line with the Corporate Priority for empowering young people. Silver Surfer courses are being held to encourage the older members of the community to use the internet especially in the field of geneaology and generally promoting e-government. New technologies will be adopted particularly in the digitisation of Archives and local material to make it available to everyone through the world wide web.

There is plenty to look forward to in the coming years and Keighley Library will adapt to new trends as it has done over the last 100 years.

This correspondence was discussed at the council meeting when the decision was taken to set up a public library. Click on a picture to view a larger version.

letter from Sir Swire Smith


Letter from Sir Swire Smith to the Mayor of Keighley, dated 4th August 1899.













letter from Andrew Carnegie to Sir Swire Smith
Letter from Andrew Carnegie to Sir Swire Smith, dated 8th August 1899.

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