GUEST COLUMN:
Reasons to celebrate Carnegie
By David Rasmussen

       The question was asked why we have an annual celebration at the Old Colorado City Library honoring Andrew Carnegie. The initial proposal for a Carnegie Day goes back to the 1904 opening of the current library building, but unfortunately this never came to fruition until 100 years later, when it was being restored. Neverthe- less, it is more than fitting that we continue this tradition. Not only is Carnegie's philanthropy exemplary, but the payback on his initial investment is so manifold that it is well worth recognizing.
       Currently, Pikes Peak Library District has a Return on Investment Calculator posted on its website. Library users can readily calculate their monthly return based on usage. For example, an individual who in one month checks out just one book, one magazine and one DVD and who uses the library computer once to check the Internet has a monthly return of $6.30 for every $1 paid in taxes. A family that checks out 10 books, two magazines and four DVDs, that attends four programs (child or adult), that uses the computers once, and that asks one reference question has a monthly return of $61.83.
       In June 2010 alone, the Old Colorado City Library, part of the Pikes Peak Library District, had more than 18,800 visits for a circulation of over 26,600 items. The entire district checks out an average of 22,700 items each day.
       Andrew Carnegie gave $10,000 for the construction of the Old Colorado City building over 100 years ago. Times have changed, but even taking inflation into account, the usage of this facility today at the above rate of investment return is amazing. And this is just 1 Carnegie library of the 36 that were built in the state - 12 of which are still functioning as libraries (5 as public buildings). Nation-wide, Carnegie built 1,689 libraries in all.
       But far exceeding the monetary payback from Carnegie's investment is the opportunity he has provided generations of free public library users to better themselves and their society. Carnegie didn't believe in handouts, but he argued every person should have access to resources if they are willing to seek them out and learn. Every book a child reads, every film or documentary an adult watches (especially those they wouldn't have access to otherwise), every program where the community joins together and shares ideas, common concerns, and even differences of opinion, make for immeasurably richer citizens and society. Carnegie made this happen, totally at a self-sacrifice to his own personal interests.
       Celebrating Andrew Carnegie is celebrating philanthropy and the best of human nature in the pursuit of the best of all possible causes: the betterment of the individual and society.

David Rasmussen is an information specialist at the Old Colorado City Library.