It comes as no surprise to me that I find myself in a steakhouse once again.

We step into the spacious lobby of Miller and Carter with two doorways leading to the bar and the restaurant. Inside, the dimmed lights, oak interiors and burgundy walls create a warm and inviting space. We tread the soft black and red patterned carpet and are shown to our table in a spacious booth. I lean back into the leather sofa and look at the menu before ordering a prime steak burger stacked high with bacon and blue cheese.

I relax and slowly sip a large glass of Malbec; its smooth depth goes perfectly with red meat. I remind my husband that until the late eighties this building housed the city’s public library, and how intrigued I am by its history.

My imagination takes flight as I visualise bookcases packed with a zillion amazing hardbacks amidst the columns, people sitting at antique desks opening up huge encyclopaedias and children under the arches in the story corner sitting cross-legged engrossed in picture books.

After my burger I go upstairs to the ladies via a grand staircase and notice a huge stained glass window of Andrew Carnegie. He is standing on a podium under an arch and wearing an academic gown, holding the building in his hand.

I want to know more and when I Google it, discover that St Albans library was one of over 2,500 Carnegie libraries that were built all over the world between 1883 and 1929.

This once wonderful library housed in this Edwardian baroque building dated from 1911. Carnegie’s grants were very formidable and setting up so many libraries was at the time one of the largest philanthropic activities in history.

Born in Scotland in 1835, Carnegie immigrated to the US at the age of 12. Carnegie went on to become a great American industrialist and one of the richest men on earth having built a vast fortune in steel.

When I think of all of those thousands of communities all over the globe that have hugely benefitted from his generosity, I am humbled by his vision.

These days, people drop in here for a steak and a beer. Of course, if I had my way I would restore this place to its former glory. In that stained glass image, he was offering us an incredible gift and perhaps we could have shown our gratitude by preserving its function far into the future. After all, in the words of Carnegie himself: “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city.