Carnegie library in Shelby Park could make a comeback

The Shelby Park Neighborhood Association has started a petition to restore the building as a public library

A limestone, Beaux-Arts building surrounded by colorful, fall + autumn trees.

The Shelby Park Library was built in 1911, but hasn’t served as an LFPL branch since 1994.

Photo courtesy @shelbyparklouisville

For the last 30 years, the historic building at 600 E. Oak St., originally a Carnegie library, has served many roles — from housing local nonprofit AMPED to a community center.

Now, the Shelby Park Neighborhood Association hopes to turn back the clock and return the building to its original purpose, a library. A petition has been created asking Mayor Craig Greenberg to reactivate it as a Louisville Free Public Library (LFPL) branch.

📚 What’s a Carnegie library?

In the late 19th century, steel industry magnate Andrew Carnegie gave away $60 million — equivalent to ~$2.3 billion today — funding the construction of 1,689 libraries across the US.

Nine of those libraries were constructed here in Derby City, including one in the Shelby Park neighborhood.

Today, only four of the buildings still function as libraries in LOU, including the Main branch. Bonus: Two other Carnegie libraries have recently been given new life — the Parkland Library and the Portland Library.

🕰️ History of the Shelby Park Library

Designed in the Beaux-Arts style and constructed with limestone, the former Shelby Park Library is the only one built within a Louisville park. Construction was completed in 1911, and it served the surrounding community for the next 80 years.

In 1994, LFPL relocated the branch two miles away to Mid City Mall on Bardstown Road, merging it with another Carnegie library, the Highlands branch. That’s where the Highlands-Shelby Park Library currently operates.

📝 The petition

In a letter sent to Mayor Greenberg in December 2023, the neighborhood association called the building, “the public hub of our neighborhood for more than a century,” but noted that it “has been largely inactive for years and Shelby Park is in desperate need of community space.”

If you want to see the building restored to a library, you don’t have to be a Shelby Park resident to sign the petition.