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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914

Buildings and Cityscape


By John C Crawford

Advertisement During this time there was a large and expanding number of libraries which were based on local geography, social class and academic and professional groups. The first permissive Scottish Public Libraries Act, which allowed a library to be established only with the ratepayers' consent, was passed in 1853 but Glasgow's middle class who paid the rates were unwilling to fund a service they did not intend to use themselves. Repeated attempts to adopt the Public Libraries Acts were defeated and Glasgow only became a public library authority in 1899 by means of a local Act, thus circumventing the democratic process. Glasgow was one of the last local authorities in Scotland to provide a public library service.

Maryhill Library Circulating and subscription libraries continued to flourish. In the 1890s Bryce's Select (circulating) Library even had a van to deliver books to customers' doors. The needs of the working classes were met by local libraries, such as the Maryhill Public Library, in existence by 1845, Baillie's Institution, founded in 1863 to spread education among the working classes, and co-operative societies and mechanics' institutes.

Gorbals Library The library event of the century was the founding of the Mitchell Library in 1878, set up with money left by Stephen Mitchell, the tobacco manufacturer. Under the direction of its energetic librarian, Francis Thornton Barrett (1838-1919), it rapidly established itself as the greatest regional reference library in the UK after Birmingham. The Mitchell Library was incorporated into the new city library service in 1899 and Barrett set about planning a comprehensive branch library programme to serve the city. Andrew Carnegie supported this with a grant of £120,000. The first, in the Gorbals, opened in 1901. Stirling's Library became part of the system in 1912.

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