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The History of Kelso Library
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Kelso has been well served by its libraries since 1750. The first 'Kelso Library' is recorded in that year, a 'Kelso New Library' in 1778 and the 'Modern Library' in 1794. Rutherford in his Directory of 1866, also recorded Congregational Libraries attached to four of the churches and a Book Club in the Square. The three main libraries were subscription libraries, where membership cost from 10/- (50p) to 1 guinea (£1.10p). Kelso Library in 1866 advertised that it had 8000 volumes and the 'United Library'- the 'New' and the 'Modern' having amalgamated in 1859 - 3500 volumes.
The Free Libraries Act of 1901 gave local authorities the right to levy an extra penny in the pound on the rates to provide a free library and reading room for the people of the towns and parishes. As in many country areas, the population was split as to the value of a library to many, when those who wished to borrow from the subscription libraries could usually afford the cost. In one nearby parish, those living more than a mile from the site of the proposed library voted against it, as it was too far to travel.
At this time, Andrew Carnegie, the great benefactor, was selling his business interests in the United States, and redistributing much of his wealth to provide the buildings for free libraries. In all, he gave the money for the building of 2811 libraries for the benefit of the populace as a whole. Kelso benefitted by the sum of £3500. His money provided for the building, but the cost of the stock for the library had to be funded from local sources. This was when disagreements began, both over the site of the building and the ways of raising the funds for books.
Fortunately, agreement was reached in the end, and the fine building we see today was erected on the site at 19/21 Bowmont Street. The library was opened by Dr Hew Morrison, representing Dr Carnegie, on 16th May 1906.
Today, in addition to newspapers being available in the Reading Room, and books and talking books, for young and old alike, available on loan, one can borrow or rent videos, tapes and compact discs and, in keeping with modern technology, photocopy, use computers and CD roms, and access the Internet. The Reference Section is a valuable resource for seekers after fact, and the status of being a Scottish Parliament Partner Library means that local people can access the workings of the new Scottish Parliament without going to Edinburgh.
'Let There Be Light'
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