Crofton Park Library
Andrew Carnegie's Palace of Meritocracy
I meet a self-assured fifteen year old girl who has come in to study for her GCSEs. She has a big book on Astronomy laid out in front of her. She said she wants to go to university although she is not sure what she wants to do. Andrew Carnegie would surely be happy to know that one hundred years after his great donation, people are still using the hand he offered to pull themselves up.
Astronomy student with her eyes on the university

The Palace of Meritocracy

This is the Palace of Meritocracy, also known as Crofton Park Library, built over one hundred years ago as part of a colossal philanthropic endeavour to improve the life chances of working class communities across the United States, Scotland and England.

The endeavour belonged to Andrew Carnegie a self-made millionaire from the late nineteenth century, who made it big in the American steel industry having immigrated to the States from Scotland as a penniless seven year old. A fervent believer in the American Dream, Carnegie preached that the rich had a duty to reinvest their wealth in their local community, giving those less fortunate a hand-up. Towards the end of his life Carnegie had parted with most of his wealth.

One of his most grandiose projects was to build and equip public libraries throughout the States and Britain, providing the host authority provided site and maintenance costs (Cardiff, 2001). Carnegie believed libraries were an essential tool in realising a meritocractic society.

His own success had hinged on access to a private library. In June 1902 Lewisham Council were offered nine thousand pounds for two new libraries, one of which was Crofton Park Library.
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Andrew Carnegie's Palace of Meritocracy

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