First Andrew Carnegie Library transformed in £12.4m expansion

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It is a project that has transformed the home of the world’s first Andrew Carnegie Library into Scotland’s newest architectural landmark.

The £12.4 million expansion for Dunfermline’s historic library and has been more than a dozen years in the planning stages in Carnegie’s home town in Fife.

The transformed Carnegie Library & Galleries in Dunfermline. Picture: Chris Humphreys Photography

The transformed Carnegie Library & Galleries in Dunfermline. Picture: Chris Humphreys Photography

But it has already won two architectural awards before it is officially opened and is expected to attract more than a quarter of a million visitors a year.

New exhibition spaces, research facilities, a children’s library, a cafe-bar and garden have transformed the look of the historic facility, which dates back to 1883.

It was the first of more than 2500 libraries to be built with money donated by the Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist, who led the expansion of the US steel industry in the late 19th century.

One of Scotland’s leading architects, Richard Murphy, has masterminded the plans for the project since winning a design competition in 2007.

Inside the �12.4 million expansion of Dunfermlines historic  library. Picture: Chris Humphreys Photography

Inside the �12.4 million expansion of Dunfermlines historic library. Picture: Chris Humphreys Photography

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An “architectural promenade” has been created inside the building, which boasts a terrace overlooking Dunfermline Abbey and garden, which has been created on the site of a former car park.

The grade-B listed library building, which sits in the heart of Dunfermline’s heritage quarter, has been left largely unaltered by the project, which has created the first proper museum facility to showcase Dunfermline’s historic collections.

Mr Murphy said: “The original vision we picked up from Fife Council for the site was to put a museum, art galleries and a reading room onto the existing site. They were very perceptive even then that buildings need other things to keep them going.

“Our original idea for the building, which we kept more or less intact, was to create an internal street and a journey up to the roof, which criss-crosses that street. The idea is that you can more or less see where everything is in the building from one particular place.

It was an interesting problem trying to squeeze everything that the council wanted into the building, which there was a height restriction on, but I think we’ve done it quite well.

“I don’t really know if people realise the first ever Carnegie library is in Dunfermline. I certainly didn’t. I had only a vague idea of who Andrew Carnegie was. I was staggered to learn he was responsible for funding more than 2500 libraries. It’s quite astonishing that they wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for him.”

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Heather Stuart, chief executive of Fife Cultural Trust, said: “We had a couple of small museum facilities previously, but the big difference with this is it is a fit-for-purpose building, with spaces that are designed to be galleries, which is just fantastic in terms of accessibility and flexibility.

“It’s created a brand new attraction for Dunfermline, without a doubt. The contemporary design Richard has produced is amazing, but it is also the fact it is joined on to the first Carnegie library in the world and its location in the heart of the heritage quarter in Dunfermline, including the abbey where Robert the Bruce is buried.

“I think it fits in very into this historic area and all of the feedback we’ve had so far has been very positive.”