The burgh of Ayr has had a library for many years. The Ayr Library Society was founded in 1762, but it took until 1870 before Ayr ‘s first Public Library was established, inheriting the book stock of other local libraries to its collection. Like its predecessors, the Public Library was privately organised, and financed by subscription: the Public Libraries Act had empowered local authorities to provide a free library service from public funds, provided the ratepayers voted in favour, but in Ayr no such consent was forthcoming. To keep down the subscription fees, money was raised from public lectures and in 1890, the library committee invited the Scottish-American steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (then residing at Cluny Castle near Kingussie) to be one of their speakers. Mr Carnegie declined due to prior commitments, but further correspondence led to an offer from him of £10,000 for a new building if the town would adopt the Public Libraries Act. Posters and handbills urging acceptance were printed, and this time a majority voted for the Act and the plans were made for a new library building.
The images above were submitted as part of a competition to design the new library, but the designs were considered too elaborate.
Built in 1893, the original two-storey building fronting on to Main Street is of red sandstone in late Victorian Renaissance style. If you look closely you can see the front of the building has changed. The left of the building was originally home to the Carnegie Librarian. This was closed in 1925 and the exterior was brought into harmony with the rest of the building. It is now home to our computer department.
The downstairs lending area was extended rearwards to Garden Street in 1932, and a further extension at the rear accommodating a spacious lecture room/reference library was designed by the distinguished Ayr firm of James Kennedy Hunter (Hunter himself had died in 1929). This was opened on 22 January 1934 by Flight Lieutenant David McIntyre, who spoke about his pioneer flight over Everest the previous year. (McIntyre would later take a leading role in establishing Prestwick Airport.)