Between 1883 and 1929 Andrew Carnegie donated approximately $40 Million dollars for the construction of library buildings. 1,689 library were built in the United States, 660 in Britain and Ireland, 156 in Canada, and others in Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, the Caribbean and Fiji. The funds, intended for the construction of the building, were to be matched by the communities for the purchase of books, staff, and upkeep.
These libraries were unique in that they utilized open stacks, which encouraged people to browse. Up to that time patrons had to ask a clerk to retrieve books from closed stacks. More than half of these buildings in the United States still serve their communities as libraries.
Paso Robles has one of the Carnegie Library buildings proudly sitting in the park in the middle of town. It was opened in 1908 and served as the library until 1998 when a new library was built across the street. The building today serves as the Historical Museum. It was damaged in the 2003 San Simeon earthquake and was closed for several years while it was retrofitted.
The architect of the classical revival style building was W.H. Weeks. The building is constructed of rosy brick with gray stone trim and is surrounded by large oaks, exemplifing the Carnegie "temple in the park" concept. It was added to the Nat'l Register of Historic Places in 1998.
W. H. Weeks was also the architect for the Carnegie Library in San Luis Obispo which opened in 1905 and remained a library until 1955. It is used today as a museum. This Romanesque style building was built of red brick, Los Berros Yellow Sandstone, and Bishop's Peak Granite for it's foundation.