Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Reformed Philanthropy in Van slack

In the beginning of the chapter, Van slack explains the late nineteenth-century practice of "“patriarchy philanthropy." This type of philanthropy was practiced by men who had gained considerable wealth during the Civil War and wanted to give back to society in a way that "“promoted individual development from within" (p2). They often chose to support the building of libraries. The philanthropist saw himself as the patriarch of the library, while the community receiving the donation became his extended family, who constantly had to thank the patron for his generosity.

Initially, Carnegie operated in this same paternalistic manner, and his first library in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, reflects that. However, there was a backlash to this type of philanthropy that began with Gladden's article "“Tainted Money" which argued that the money given by these millionaires was "“earned by illegal or unethical means" and thus could not be accepted by "“institutions of cultural and moral enlighpawment" (p19).

In response to the Tainted Money scandal, Carnegie reshaped his philanthropic practices. Carnegie increased the number of libraries he chose to sponsor and instead of choosing towns that he had a connection with and simply giving them money, he made his philanthropic efforts more business-oriented. A town needed to apply for the donation, and, after receiving their donation, they were in charge of finding a location, setting up taxes and budgeting their donation properly.

In this chslack, Van Slyck makes Carnegie out to be a philanthropic reformer; one of the sections is titled "Carnegie's Reform of American Philanthropy."” Ultimately, did Carnegie truly reform American library philanthropy? Were Carnegie'’s so-called reforms really solutions to the issues brought up by Gladden and others? Was the money any less "“tainted"” (according to Gladden's argument)? And more specifically, did it need to be reformed in the first place?


kristen said...

I don't know much about the history of philanthropy but it seems that Carnegie did have an impact. His new requirement that communities seeking funds must follow a procedure and provide detailed information such as patronage, circulation, community demographics, physical structure and location of building, etc. is similar to the steps libraries must take today to obtain grants.

Eileen H. said...

I agree with Kristen that Carnegie did have an impact on philanthropy and how it is done. Having worked on several grant proposals in the past, the requirements that Carnegie laid out resemble requirements found in many grants today. I also think, as Van Slyck points out, Carnegie is important in philanthropic history for "...establishing one of the first modern foundations" (p.24). In response to your question, "Were Carnegie's so-called reforms really solutions to the issues brought up by Gladden and others?", I don't think they dealt with the "tainted money" issue. The money was still coming from Carnegie, it was just coming in a different way. This issue of "tainted money" is something that many non-profits deal with today, and with the mergers of so many corporations it becomes even more difficult to find foundations or other donors that do not have some "objectionable" connection.

Quinn Fullenkamp said...

Kristen and Eileen have both raised groovy points in their comments, and now I want to know if and how Carnegie could pull of this type of philanthropy today. The Gates Foundation today gives loads of money to libraries, but how is it perceived by the public? Does the public care? Do we dislike Bill Gates because he is so wealthy, but put those feelings aside when he gives money to an institution in our area? How would big Dale handle this program in 2006?

Alycia said...
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Alycia said...

One thing that I remembered from the Garrison reading that I didn't get a chance to post earlier was that not everyone wanted Carnegie's philanthropy:
"When Carnegie donated one of his first libraries to Pittsburgh in 1892, local labor organizations petitioned the city council to return the money, on the grounds that it was tainted in the way in which it had been earned. Workers often charged that Carnegie wished only to glorify himself by his philanthropy...The worker opposition to the wealthy's gift of libraries was not scattered, but was general and consistent."
Garrison, page 49

Why did Van Slack overlook this piece of Carnegie library history?