Speaking of History:The Words of South Carolina Librarians

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Listen to Bernice Middleton

Bernice Middleton speak about becoming a librarian and her experience on the job.

RW: Where did this long term commitment to Library Science come from? Was it just the slow kindling of interest as a result of the work at Claflin?

BM: You know at one time I really, really wanted to be a nurse. And then I realized that the sight of blood wasn't quite my thing. I was also interested in social work. For some reason or other... during the early days of the 50's, I was fairly committed to social work. I did sort of debate about transferring, but then, I didn't. And I never really intended to get into library education. But that was sort of thrust on me after I ... you know... because I really started off at State in the library.

RW: Well, how about the experience at Gaffney? Was it a good experience?

BM: No.

RW: No?

BM: No. I'll tell you what happened there. The discarded books from Limestone College --- that was the collection as I found it for the most part. 80% to 90% of the collection were discards from Limestone College. In the first place, the level was too high. They just wanted books. They were counting books there. As long as you had a book, it didn't matter what the book was. Frankly, I raised cain about it. I had a principal who would listen.

RW: Now, this is an all black high school at the time.

BM: That's right. And Limestone was all white. When they got ready to discard books they just sent them over there.

RW: You were accepting these for the purposes of accreditation primarily.

BM: That's right. By count, just by count, not by the age of the collection. And that's what had happened when I got there. So the principal got some money from somewhere and he let me buy books. And then we had a battle over... He said the books were so expensive -- he didn't want the kids to take them home. And I said, " Oh No, we can't go along with that." He about knuckled down. We got along. As a matter of fact, I used to ride back to Gaffney with him on weekends.

RW: Is that right? You were part time teaching, part time librarian.

BM: That's right.

RW: How was the split, time wise?

BM: The library was open before school and after school for the most part. And I had a full teaching load.

RW: This was strictly something you did extra?

BM: That's right.

RW: Did you get paid extra for it?

BM: No. I got $75 a month, total salary.

RW: When did you have time to process the books and that type of thing?

BM: After the library closed.

RW: It must have been an interesting experience.

BM: It was. It really was.

RW: Do you remember what the total budget was for the books that you bought?

BM: No, I don't.

RW: Did they have to come from some approved list or anything like that?

BM: I used a list.

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