Interview with: Catherine Heniford Lewis (CL)
Date of Interview: November 8, 1989
Robert V. Williams (RVW)
Transcriber: Caroline Hipp
Permission to Use Restrictions
RVW: Catherine, you were born February 24, 1924 in Richmond VA. Tell me a little about your family background, education of your folks, those kind of things.
CL: My father was a graduate pharmacist who operated a drug store in Loris, where I grew up, in this county. My mother was a Virginian and when the time came for each of us to be born, she went back to Virginia so my 2 brothers and I are all "registered Virginians". That's a closely guarded secret because most people think I am a native of the county. And since I do a lot of work in local history, I sometimes tell that as a joke that I lived in Horry county before I was born and after I was born. But I was born in Virginia.
RVW: That's good...just so she could make sure to say you were a Virginian.
CL: That's correct. My mother came to SC at a time when there were no sidewalks, no lights and no indoor plumbing. She missed the bright lights of the city. I spent a good deal of my time as a child in Richmond with my mother's people. I also spent a good deal of time on the farm with my father's people so I had the broadest kind of experience as a child; a really metropolitan life to country life.
RVW: Your father is a South Carolinian?
CL: Yes, he is a native of this county.
RVW: And his business was here in Conway?
CL: No, it was in Loris. He operated the Loris Drugstore for many years. Then in mid?life he decided that was too confining, so he sold the drugstore and went into a combination of farming and life insurance and then later on he had a general insurance agency. But he was a product of the Medical College of Virginia, that's where he met my mother.
RVW: Then your mother was a Virginian who had moved down here?
CL: No, he met her in Richmond and they married and came back here. He had an opportunity to have a drugstore in a little town.
RVW: So summers you went back to Richmond?
CL: Very often we went back to Richmond. In the summertime and at Christmas time. My grandmother often visited us here so there was a lot of going back and forth.
RVW: You went to high school where?
CL: In Loris, then I went to Coker for an undergraduate degree. And then to the University of North Carolina for 2 degrees.
RVW: An undergraduate in English Literature from Coker?
CL: English and Latin. Can you believe it?
RVW: Wasn't that long ago! Was it your intention to be a librarian? Where did this interest start?
CL: No. It was not until I was at the University of North Carolina. I went for a Master's degree in English and became a graduate assistant in the library working under one of the finest reference librarians of the time, Georgia Faison. Miss Faison was the most wonderful person to work under. She trained me by letting me tag along behind her when she did reference work. I had a overweening admiration of her and after I got the Master's degree I taught very briefly in high school and had to come home for my mother's final illness; then I went back to the university to the library. Then one day she went upstairs and got an application to the library school and put it in front of me and said, "Fill this out". She arranged for the university to pay for my schooling. I worked a 40 hour week and went to school.
RVW: You were already working full-time in the library?
CL: Yes, so I had had 4 years of experience by the time I got my degree.
RVW: You got the Master's in English Literature?
CL: Yes, first the Master's in English Literature and then theB.S.M.L.S, which, at the time, was a 5th year degree. I believe it was the year following my degree that NC went to the Master's program for library science.
RVW: Now, the Master's in English was...?
CL: Yes, I had that beforehand. I had hoped to teach English. That was the kind of thing which I saw myself doing and had not envisioned being a librarian at all. But Miss Faison saw it differently and it was at the time when Miss Akers was the dean there and she and Miss Faison were very close. So Miss Akers accepted me into library school on the strength of Miss Faison's recommendation.
RVW: Now, while growing up, your knowledge of libraries must have been pretty limited in Loris?
CL: It was. We didn't have libraries there??certainly no public library. During the Depression the WPA established little reading rooms in the schools. What they did was invite people to empty their attics of books and they put them together in one place. It was a mixed bunch of books, I can tell you! It was housed at the high school and served as the only library they had as well as a library for the public. That was my experience growing up although we had a lot of books in my family that had been passed along from various relatives. I remember reading the whole canon of George Eliot by the time I was 12 or 13 because that was what we happened to have.
RVW: Your mother had a degree from college?
CL: No, my mother was not a college graduate. She came from a family with an invalid father so all of them had to drop out of school and work. For a time she worked as a clerk for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad in Richmond. Then married my father and after that she never worked.
RVW: Then you stayed in the Reference department at Chapel Hill while going to school part time?
CL: Yes, I worked for Miss Fason all of those years ?? this was 1945?1948. It took me 3 years to get the degree, but during that time we didn't have a documents librarian so I did most of that work under her supervision and I did a good deal of her interlibrary loan work during that period. We were extremely short?handed and very few librarians around so I got an interesting kind of training in several kind of specialties
RVW: Now this was in the Wilson library?
CL: Yes and Dr. Wilson was still there. He taught a course in the philosophy of librarianship when I got my degree.
RVW: He had left Chicago?
CL: Yes, and had come back to Chapel Hill. He was probably in his nineties by then, certainly well into his eighties.
RVW: I'm trying to remember...he died about 4 or 5 years ago. It must have been in the 70's.
CL: Oh, he's been dead longer than that, Bob. He was 95 I think when he died. He was very much a presence there.
RVW: So once you left there you went to...?
CL: Natchitoches, Louisiana.
RVW: Natchitoches, Louisiana, Northwestern State College. What caused this switch?
CL: Well, I had a choice: I could stay in Chapel Hill happily the rest of my life and become one of the little old ladies in tennis shoes...or, I could decide to leave and see what I could do elsewhere. So I chose to go. I had a job offer...a man namedEugene Watson was the director of the library at Northwestern at the time and he was on his way somewhere up the east coast for the ALA meeting and stopped by to interview me at Chapel Hill. He offered me a job that combined teaching, which I had always been interested in??to teach the library science. It was...he was forward looking because that was a required course for freshmen at that time and this was in the late 40's and he said that I would do some documents and that I would assist in the reference department. All that sounded like something I could do so I went to Louisiana and was there a full calendar year. When I got there I was confronted with the fact that that library had been a depository collection for 20 years and the documents were still in their wrappers. When the assistant librarian took me to see the documents department it was up on the top floor of the stacks and the documents were spilling down the stairwell. So they gave me a young veteran, a fellow from the piney woods, Louisiana and what hard work was. He and I did some hard work. At the end of that year I wrote a report on the government documents and it pulled no punches. The first time I ever saw Mitchell Reames at a reception in Columbia, he recognized my name and he said, "Oh, you were at Natchitoches." I said, "yes, I worked for Gene Watson" and he said, "I read the report you left him"...he and I laughed about that a number of times because it really must have scorched the paper it was written on. I felt that the situation had been considerably misrepresented and although my time at Natchtoches was a happy time and I enjoyed it in many ways, it was still one of the hardest years anyone could want to put in.
RVW: Getting the documents from total chaos to...?
CL: Order. And of course there were no computers in those days; it all had to be done by hand. It got very hot that summer in Louisiana up under that roof...very hot indeed! It was all work and no play, pretty much.
RVW: You must have had good documents training at Chapel Hill, both in the library and library school.
CL: Yes, in library school, as I recall it, documents were treated as part of cataloging and very little emphasis on documents as a specialty. But the practical experience I had gained working for Miss Faison and Isaac Copeland was there at that time. He was documents librarian following that period as a matter of fact. He and I maintained close ties afterwards because of that experience. But yes, all the training I got under Miss Fason was good sound training.
RVW: So 4 years, '48 to '49, is that right?
CL: Yes, I was a full year at Natchitoches and then I married my husband and I went to Washington where I worked for the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress.
RVW: Your husband was from Louisiana?
CL: No, he was from Illinois. I met him at Chapel Hill but he was teaching in New Orleans at the time that I was at Natchitoches. We met again down there and married in 1949.
RVW: What was his training in?
CL: He was a sociologist. He had trained at Chapel Hill and then he left short of the degree??one of those A.B.D.s... all but...and taught in Atlanta and then New Orleans before we married and went to Washington.
RVW: So you left Northwestern and went to the Library of Congress Copyright Office?
CL: Yes, I was employed on a special project which was to prepare bibliographies and enter international copyright law. Under the direction of a Miss Mertz...I believe her first name was Henrietta. She was a specialist in international copyright law. It was said in the Copyright office that they had invited her in to do this project??to sort of co?opt her as a critic of the copyright office. She was an extremely interesting woman??it was an interesting period. Fisher was the Register of Copyright at that time and she had her own suite of offices and I was the chief bibliographer and then she had a number of interns assigned to her. That bibliography was never published because she and the Library of Congress could not agree on the format of the bibliography. She wanted it done her way and the Library of Congress had very strict editorial rules and so all that work essentially went down the drain. Someone told me that years later one or two copies were produced, but it was never published.
RVW: Did you have trouble finding a job in Washington or did the Library of Congress job come about pretty easily?
CL: Well, I had taken the civil service examinations and had not gotten certified on the register at the time we arrived in Washington. The Library of Congress was not bound by civil service so that was a place I could work immediately. Later on I did work for the civil service, but the Library of Congress was exempt. I went from that position to be the librarian at the School of Advanced International Studies. This was before it was a part of Johns Hopkins. But it already had close ties with Johns Hopkins.
RVW: But located in Washington?
CL: Yes, it was located on Florida Avenue at that point. I think they were already negotiating with Johns Hopkins. It had been a privately endowed school for the training of both people who were going into the foreign service at the State Department and also into business that dealt in international commerce. There were some really brilliant and interesting people there.
RVW: You were the only librarian?
CL: No, they had another head librarian. I was the assistant and I did the cataloging. I had the audacity to begin the cataloging of their Middle?Eastern collection. If I thought I had trouble with the documents in Louisiana, try dealing with transliterating those Middle?eastern languages. The school was a very small, intimate group of people and there must not have been more than about 30 students...my mind tells me there couldn't have been more than 30?35 students at that time. It was all very intimate. You got to know the faculty, who were names in their fields, so that was interesting.
RVW: So Winthrop, the library was created more as high school library?
RVW: These are McCarthy days...is the Institute coming under any pressure from those kinds of things?
CL: I didn't feel the effect of McCarthy until I got into the State Department and then we did full force. I went to work for the State Department as a review specialist??book review specialist...
RVW: This was 1951?
CL: That's right. In the Information Agency division. I was in the section that dealt with the libraries overseas. There began to be a lot of trouble about McCarthy, so when Eisenhower came in he reorganized the agency and made it an independent agency, to sort of separate the Department of State from criticism. We were given a separate administrator and I did a lot of work as a result of the McCarthy business. It became necessary for us to set up a union catalog of 190 odd, maybe even 200, libraries overseas. McCarthy's lists would arrive; he would want to know how many books we had by a given author or a given list of authors located in all the libraries overseas. You had to list by library and title and number of copies...so we had to set up a union catalog. Physically, it was housed at the Library of Congress because we didn't have room, but we all worked on it. I wish you could have seen the bibliographies that came in from overseas. The emphasis in those libraries was certainly not in pure librarianship, I have to say that their cataloging was haphazard at best. They came in every format that you could possibly imagine. Some of them were boxes of cards, some of them were hand?written lists. It was just an incredible mess and of course we had to untangle all that and get the titles sorted out and identified and all that sort of thing. Then when a list would come from McCarthy we would have to report. Almost in my dreams I could recite the 196 libraries because I sat there so often reading those lists. That was a difficult and bitter time.
RVW: Was the union catalog created strictly in response to the kinds of things McCarthy wanted?
CL: That's right. It would not have been done otherwise, I'm certain of that. It was only under pressure from his demands that we did it...it was an extraordinarily costly thing in terms of hours spent overseas, hours spent in this country. You resented it so deeply because they were hours that could have been spent productively in other ways and everything was sort of sidetracked into this McCarthy nightmare. And of course the lists had nothing to do with communists. The lists he sent to us were of the most respectable names in almost any field you want to mention. There would be clergymen on the list, there would be journalists, whose names were in the news all the time, on a given list. There would be lists of actors, or people associated with the theater. There would be lists of American writers. These people were not communists. The sad thing about all this??and this is one reason why I dropped my membership in the ALA and never rejoined??ALA did not support us at any point. They were highly critical of the librarians who were in the agency and they never bothered, as far as I could tell, to consider what we were going through and what we were trying to do to protect the people who were on those lists. The climate in the country was such at that point that if any name was known to be associated with the McCarthy list, it was assumed in the public press that that person was communist. So when these names of??as far as I'm concerned??innocent people came to us and we had to report to McCarthy on the titles of their books which were in our libraries overseas, we didn't feel like we could disclose those names because they would be tarred with the red brush if we did. So we made a conscious decision in the agency that we would protect those names??that we would take the criticism.
RVW: These lists of names came to you known as having been sent from McCarthy?
CL: Oh yes, they came in official Senate envelopes??and believe you me, and I suppose it's true to this day??if you get one of those courier envelopes from the Hill, it gets top priority attention. They came identified as being McCarthy's...
RVW: And strictly requesting we want to know these titles and libraries...there were about 197 USIS libraries?
CL: About that. As I recall, 196??don't hold me to that figure?? but that number sticks in my mind at this point. There was a list of about 400 names eventually of people that we reported on. There were a lot of other interesting and very sad things that happened during that period and of course not all of it has been made public. It certainly has not received the attention that I think is due that episode in the library literature, at least that I am aware of.
RVW: Was ALA trying to find who these names were...when you say ALA didn't support you?
CL: No, they were critical. The library press was critical of USIS during that period, saying we were doing the wrong thing. We were kowtowing to McCarthyism...we were not upholding the freedom to read, freedom of expression and so on. It became a question of how you would do that, you know. How could you? For example, we must have had, literally, thousands of copies of Untermeyers anthologies in the overseas libraries??all sorts of anthologies??every one of those had to be listed because he was on McCarthy's list. Now these were not his writings, he was simply an anthologist, a compiler. How could they have been tainted with communism? How could they spread red propaganda? And yet, in the scary totals McCarthy used about millions of books in libraries overseas??red books??Louis Untermeyer would have loomed in terms of an individual author, one of the most...
RVW: So McCarthy took your word when you got this response back? And this is how he went public with it?
CL: That's right. He always disclosed it in terms of total numbers. He didn't ever personally... well, he didn't often, disclose the names of the persons because I suppose that would have left him open to right much criticism if some of the names on those lists had been made public. But anyone who crossed him... I remember there was a Unitarian minister in Washington who preached a long series of sermons on the subject of McCarthy and his antics, and within a day or two after this became known in the public press, his name arrived on a list. It was that kind of thing. Anyone who criticized McCarthy ended up on that list.
RVW: And ALA was criticizing you all for providing the information?
CL: Yes. I have wondered what some of those people who were so critical would have done under the circumstances. We thought those few librarians, there were only about 6 of us, we felt like we were fighting every inch of the way. I wonder often how the people who were being so critical on the outside would have done things differently. Maybe there was something we didn't think of that we ought to have done but we were pretty far down the organizational ladder and I thought we made as good a fight as we could. As a result of that, and I understand it's true to this day, every author who goes overseas has to have an FBI check, security check, still.
RVW: Every book bought?
CL: Every book, it doesn't matter whether he's living or dead. And an interesting thing happened. I had a task to select a group of books which the United States ambassador to India was going to present to a university in India as a basis for American studies program. Among the titles I selected was a volume of Thoreau. I don't see how you could possibly have American studies without Thoreau. That list went upstairs for approval at the top and there it sat, and it sat and sat. The geographical desk came to me and wanted to know what the status of that book collection was...so together she and I began to track it and found it on the desk of the administrator and asked him to release it so the books could be purchased for the ambassador. The date he needed them was coming up. We were told that we could not select the Thoreau because he was socialist. It is so incredible!
RVW: What kind of protest did you all try within the group of librarians?
CL: We protested in person and we protested as a group in staff meetings. There was a very famous memorandum that went out overseas and I had the responsibility of chairing the group that drafted that for the head of the USIA. It was instructions to the librarians overseas, the people in charge of the cultural centers and the reading rooms overseas, and I still have a copy of it. I haven't looked at it in some while, but I kept it like a totem almost of those days and remember how we hammered out every word of that trying to save as much as we could but we were not able to keep them from insisting...yielding to McCarthy that all of those authors had to have security checks. Of course you can imagine the delay that caused in getting books overseas during that period.
RVW: By security check, you mean it had to actually go to the FBI?
CL: Yes. I can imagine the FBI setting up files for American authors...doesn't that boggle the mind?
RVW: Someplace there must be a huge file of those, not to mention this union catalog...You left there in '55?
CL: Yes, I came back to SC because I had small children at that time. I had a single son in '52 and twins in '54...to deal with being a working mother in a big city was not an easy thing and so we came back to SC.
RVW: Had things gotten better at USIS?
CL: No, they really had not at the time I left. For a time after that I worked on a contract basis for them. They had me put on the roll of research agency with which they contracted for outside reviews. I continued to do that until about 1957 or '58...I can't remember, it was several years after I came down here, I still got books for evaluations. Of course I was anxious to hang on to that too, it was a connection with what was going on and I had correspondence with people and so on.
RVW: McCarthy begins to fall from power about '54 or '55?
CL: Yes, his downfall was pretty rapid and then his death followed shortly thereafter.
RVW: The USIS didn't begin to change policies and procedures?
CL: No, it really didn't lighten up. These things were embedded by that time and nobody was willing to say that you no longer had to have security checks.
RVW: I wonder how different it is today.
CL: I don't keep up with it anymore. For a time I served on their reserve and when the nuclear war fright began to die out too they no longer kept the operating reserve so I lost all my contacts with them.
RVW: You say you were a member of ALA prior to this event.
CL: Yes, I never again joined.
RVW: You got really mad at them over this event?
CL: Terribly disappointed I suppose would be the way of putting it. I did not see them as answering the needs that we had??very desperate needs at that point??for support and understanding from our colleagues. In fairness I suppose I would have to say that they could not have known the inside because we were under tight security. As a matter of fact, during that period I had 4 full field investigations by the FBI. Even after I came back to SC I had a full field check. Incredible period of time...when I left USIA I brought with me a list of the authors who had appeared from McCarthy's office and every now and then in the years since I have pulled it out and looked at it just to remind myself of the reality of it I guess. It colored all the feelings I have about censorship since then. It colored the way I wrote the book selection policy for Horry County Memorial at the time I took that job. One of the first things I did was to write a book selection policy. Much of the text of that famous memorandum is incorporated in that book selection policy because of that. It a scarring thing, Bob.I have always said that people who have not thought through what they would do if the censor knocked are the ones who are most vulnerable. If you've had a chance to really think through what you would do, to know the philosophical grounds on which you would take your stand, you're much better off. I am so sorry that a lot of people who find themselves on the firing line have never really had an opportunity to examine how they personally feel about such things.
RVW: To be at the bottom of the heap in terms of the power structure and not being backed up by your boss is particularly frustrating and then not to feel support from your main professional organization...or at least understanding...
CL: We had librarians who had served overseas there. As a matter of fact I was probably the youngest member of the group there at the time. Some of them had had considerable overseas experience. The only chance I ever got to go overseas was to set up a library in Central America, and then I had to cancel because I became pregnant with my oldest child.
RVW: So were you a single parent when you come back here?
CL: Shortly thereafter. I was separated from my husband in '55 but we were not finally divorced until '59, I guess.
RVW: So all 3 kids were born in Washington?
RVW: You came back to be librarian for Coastal Carolina?
CL: Well, not for a while. For a while I was just staying at home. Then Coastal was getting started and a woman who later became my sister?in?law told them that she heard they were looking for a librarian. We had been high school friends so she told them that she knew I had a degree. Dr. Rogers called and asked if I could give a few hours to get a library started. So I started the library in a room a little larger than this one [about 10' by 20'], that had been a classroom. Not everybody has the opportunity to start a library from scratch...to walk in where there is nothing and begin something.
RVW: Where was Coastal located?
CL: At Conway High School at the time. It was there for several years. They used the classrooms of the high school in the afternoon and evening until they got this campus.
RVW: It wasn't a part of USC at that time?
CL: No. As a matter of fact, it was under the aegis of the College of Charleston. The men who started the college knew George Grice who was the president at College of Charleston at that time. They asked USC to provide shelter for the fledgling and the University was not interested so they turned to the College of Charleston. Grice said he would do it for 3 years, but only that, so the little college sheltered, under the College of Charleston for that length of time and then was for a couple of years independent...but USC had changed its tactics and there was a sudden push to establish university centers. CLemson had the same idea and was establishing CLemson centers all over the state. There was fierce competition. The College as an independent sponsored a conference on the future role of 2 year colleges. People came from all over North and South Carolina to attend that little conference. Dr. Nicholas Mitchell was there. I don't think that at that time the college had any intention of becoming a part of USC. I can remember Mitchell standing up at the end of the conference that we would either join USC or he would, in effect, see us buried. He didn't mince words about it. It was extraordinary! The committee from the University...people don't really understand the role of the University in this...it would have been 3 years before Coastal could possibly have qualified under Southeastern standards. So in the meantime, the state agency for accreditation is the University. Their accreditation committee came down and visited, gave good marks to the curriculum, the teaching and so on. We thought we were home free, then the word came from the University that we would not be accredited if we did not join the University. The Commission on Higher Education, which was the governing body of the College at the time, decided they had no alternative.
RVW: What was said about the library in this report?
CL: Nicholas Mitchell ran the Extension centers and he decided that they didn't need a librarian. I had already decided, prior to that, that I would take the job at the public library.
RVW: This is '59 to '60?
CL: Yes, then I worked part?time in the early months of 1960...part?time for the college and part?time for the public library.
RVW: Were you totally unemployed from '55 to '58?
RVW: So you really started part?time with Coastal in '58?
CL: It became full?time very rapidly. You don't build a library part?time, I found. They needed for accreditation purposes, a graduate librarian??among other things! They needed the library too. They were particularly interested in me at that point because I did have the bona fide degree. They were trying for accreditation. Mitchell put a young woman who had worked for me at the public library in charge of this library.
RVW: For these 2 years, describe how you began at Coastal...
CL: We had very little money. I did some judicious pleading with people who had collections of books that I thought would be useful to make gifts to the library??money gifts. One not very successful ploy was Congressman McMillan. He thought he would be helpful so he got permission for me to visit the stacks at the Library of Congress looking at their collection of duplicates that they make available to academic institutions. He gave me the opportunity to go through that. I found that not too productive, although I did get some books there. Simply by purchasing as judiciously as I could, from places like Strand and others...you buy what you could...but it was a slow process. The library never had much money. Coastal was pretty poor too!
RVW: So you're starting from a small room full of books that are gifts to finally buying...then by the time you leave, there is a pretty good budget?
CL: Not very much. There must not have been more than...I don't know what the records would show...there probably were not more than 1,000 titles.
RVW: Who took your place then at Coastal?
CL: I believe the first person in charge was Patricia Kleinhans, who later went to library school. She had talent for organizing and she had worked in libraries so she had some background. They simply decided they couldn't afford a professional librarian...but, as I said, I had already made the transition by that time.
RVW: How did this happen for the job at Horry County Public?
CL: I think it was fated. When I was in library school??I finished in '48??they were employing a librarian then. The public library did not open until '49, but they hired a librarian a year in advance to prepare the collection. It was offered to me while I was still in library school. I had no intention of coming back home at that point, so I passed. When I came back to SC in 1955, there had been a resignation and I was approached again but with all the small children, I declined. As things were developing between the University of South Carolina and Coastal there came the opportunity again??another resignation. The third time it was offered to me I decided it was probably meant to be. That was a happy choice.
RVW: There was a separate library board at that time?
CL: Yes, the public library here was established by legislation which created a library commission and gave it the responsibility for providing, as it said, free public library service to the entire people of the county. I loved the phrase!
RVW: Were they?
CL: Yes. As a matter of fact, in this county we never had any difficulty with integration because nobody was ever refused. I can't say they were welcomed, but they were never refused service. In the time between Kathleen Gilland's tenure and when I came on duty, there was about 6 months before they chose a librarian. During that time the Commission established the black branch. I spent the next 5 years getting rid of that black branch...it was sub?standard, it had no reason...it couldn't be defended in terms of cost or anything else. We finally did close it down.
RVW: It was in a black section of Conway?
CL: Yes, it was over on Racepath Street, at the corner of Racepath and 501, which was an entirely black community.
RVW: What is the situation in terms of other branches in the county when you became director?
CL: There was a collection at Loris, and one at Aynor. The garden club at North Myrtle Beach??it wasn't North Myrtle Beach then, since this was before the consolidation??the garden club at Crescent Beach had started a little collection which was housed in the fire department??in the city clerk's office, next door to the fire department. The firemen were the librarians; they checked the books in and out. It was not until very late in my career that we established Surfside. North Myrtle Beach did grow into a full?fledged branch so then there was Loris, Aynor, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside.
RVW: The city of Myrtle Beach's library stays independent?
CL: That's correct. It was founded shortly before the county system and had its own library commission. They never saw any reason to come into the county system. The city municipal government supported them with the assistance of the Chapin Foundation. They have remained independent of the county system.
RVW: Has it been a good library?
CL: Yes, it has been a very successful library in terms of its relationship with the community. It is supported strongly by the community. I think that Shirley Boone is the envy of public librarians everywhere because she does have that strong base of community support.
RVW: And still draws on this?
CL: Yes, it became very much like a branch of the county library system in that we supported it with inter?library loan and books moved back and forth all the time. It probably would have taken a very different path if we had not been able to provide that support. As the county librarian I supported their annual grant from the county. I strongly supported it because I felt that the county was getting a bargain in terms of library service over there. RW: How would you describe overall, the state of library development in the county and then throughout the state as of 1960? Because you've seen it now in 3 or 4 different places throughout the country, how would you compare it with... CL: This was the first public library job I ever had. As a matter of fact, I remember being in Washington for a meeting of the USIA Reserve and going to the Department of Education and talk to Evelyn Mullin about whether or not she thought I had the makings of a public librarian. I was trying to make up my mind about what I was going to do. I was very leery of it. I had always worked in fairly closed situations and I knew that public librarians were very much into the political scene, they were very much into community activities and all that sort of thing. I really had no way of gauging how I would like that or how good I would be at it. I went and talked to her. She knew the situation in SC since she was the Southeastern desk for the Department of Education at that time. It was a good talk we had and she persuaded me that she thought it would be an ok thing for me to do. When I came, Estellene Walker was on the scene already and had been for some while, struggling to pull the public libraries of the state out of the Dark Ages. There were very few trained librarians. Shirley Boone and I were the only trained librarians in the 6th Congressional District when I came. Of course, hers was a municipal library so I was the only county librarian. Some counties did not even have public libraries. Things were pretty primitive. There was never any money. That has improved significantly. I know that when you're out there in the thick of things it doesn't seem as though it has improved, but it has; there is a good deal of difference. For one thing, state aid has changed.
RVW: Were you getting any in 1960?
CL: In 1960 we got, I believe the figure was $1,500 a year, as a grant from the State Library.
RVW: There was no LSCA money?
CL: No, not at that point. I believe that that was state money because LSCA came not long after that. The State Library was cramped into a suite of rooms at the Carroll Arms across from campus. There were only about 3 or 4 staff members at that time. They operated around the kitchen sinks in what had been an apartment. Getting the State Library building was a great coup, and a marvelous improvement.
RVW: What about Miss Walker? I've heard she was a very strong personality...insisted on having things her way, according to the rumors I've heard.
CL: Well, they aren't just rumors. She did...she was a law unto herself and a very, very strong personality. She had been a military librarian and retained some of that, I think, in her make?up in dealing with us. She had a vision of what she wanted, and she just brooked no opposition in moving toward that goal. She did have a difficult problem in that some of us were trained, but many of us who were in charge of county library systems were not trained. She could not say publicly that she would treat us differently. We were county librarians regardless of whether we were trained or not. She approached it from the lowest common denominator. The rules she laid down were rules which would force the untrained librarians to meet the standards she wanted. But it allowed those who were trained no flexibility, no credit for the training or experience they had.
RVW: Is an example of this the return of the book dust jackets?
CL: Yes, the wonderful story about the Charleston library. She wanted the ragged books off...she had this feeling??and rightly so??that an attractive library??if it was attractive physically??would be more attractive in other ways. She wanted those dog?eared books that we had treasured and saved and patched and trimmed the beards off of...she wanted them to go. To ensure that we actually discarded these old books, she insisted that we rip the title pages out of the children's books and send them in. It was Charleston that photocopied the title pages and stuck them back in the books. You simply couldn't afford to give up the books. We used those books without the title pages. There were just not enough books. She had only partial success in that. She insisted that everything had to be from an approved list. If a book wasn't on an approved list you couldn't buy it with state funds. You could pay for it with your own money??your local funds??but you couldn't spend state aid or federal aid. She was having a running feud with the editor of the Library Journal at the time, so the Library Journal was not on the approved list. In spite of the fact that most of us relied on it for reviews, we could not cite it. One of the first great battles I ever had with Miss Walker about my autonomy as a public librarian was trying to purchase books from a list of science books. There was a bibliography at that time that was the standard bibliographic title for the selection of books in science and technology for libraries. I had used that in USIA and was familiar with it. I was trying to build up our science collection and since that's not in my academic background, I was relying on that very list. If a review was in the Library Journal it didn't cut it, Book List was fine, Books for Children, that sort of thing was fine, but not the Library Journal. Of course that caused us considerable difficulty. Many of us who were accustomed to reading the Journal and checking it for reviews.
RVW: Do you feel that she really didn't give those of you who were trained, and particularly yourself, the kind of experience or respect that needed to be done and the independence to make those professional decisions?
CL: Oh I felt that very strongly! As did a number of my colleagues. I was not alone in that. I think we did understand what she was trying to do. We just felt that as professional librarians with training and experience that we deserved to be able to exercise our own professional judgment. We didn't need to be hamstrung by the kinds of rules and regulations that were really put in place to safeguard the little bit of money we had from people who had no experience or training in book selection.
RVW: This sounds like another case of censorship that you had just come from. Would you make parallels between that and the USIS situation?
CL: No. I wouldn't for a number of reasons. One is that she was faced with a number of difficulties. We were never told "there are specific titles you cannot have". She was saying "the money I give you must be spent within these parameters". Nothing was said about spending your own money on anything you might want. The difficulty of course came in that??for many of us, particularly in the smaller libraries around the state, those funds were the only ones we had. I always felt that collections were less well chosen than they might be if we had been given freer rein. Ultimately that kind of thing??the need for the trained librarians in the state to have more control over their own libraries and their own fates as it were??that really was what led eventually to the formation of the Association of Public Library Administrators.
RVW: Per capita support at that time must be what, in the neighborhood of 5 or 10 cents?
CL: I can't remember. It was going up, I would think, on a fairly steady curve all those years.
RVW: I was just looking at the minutes of the State Library Board yesterday, it was 15 cents in '72, per capita...so we're probably talking 5 or 10 cents per capita then. So APLA is formed...you were president in 1980...but it was formed prior to that?
CL: Prior to that. I was not the first chair. I'd have to look at the record. Probably about '77 or '78 because I think I was the second or third president. We had a temporary chairman for well over a year and then a Lexington County librarian, Jane (I can't think of Janes last name right now) was the first elected chair.
RVW: Did Miss Walker encourage the formation of APLA?
CL: Not at the beginning. There were a number of things going on in the state. At first she considered it a personal affront. She was offended that we wished to do this. But home rule had been passed and I can remember the meeting in which we had been discussing home rule and all of a sudden, like the skies opening up, we realized, as a group of people??almost a group experience?? that that law was written so that we could lose library trustees. The county councils would have the right, when that law was fully implemented, to get rid of all boards, and just wipe out the concept of library trustees, if they chose to do so. It was clear to some of us that there would be county councils who would wish to do that.
RVW: The legislative delegations had been doing the appointing prior to home rule?
CL: That's right. That became a prerogotive of the council under home rule. That was the thing that really tipped us over to form a separate organization. We wished to go ahead and lobby strongly for state?wide library legislation which would mandate public libraries and which would retain the system of library trustees. Then she began to understand the necessity for this herself, and that we could do the lobbying, under the new rule. In the old days she was so powerful and so tight with the legislative leaders that all she had to do was go ask for something and these powerful legislators would fall in line. It was done on a personal basis. Under the new rules that couldn't be accomplished in the same way. She began to realize that we could become a fairly effective lobbying mechanism. Then she began to be reconciled to it, but I think to be reconciled is about the best you could say about it. There were none of us who wished??not one of us??who wished to hurt her in any way or to give her a personal affront in any way. That was not the point. But we did feel, given the new rules, that we had to move ahead, that we had to be in a position to lobby. At that time, the SC Library Association was extremely conservative, and would have no part in lobbying for anything. If we wanted to accomplish something, we had to do it ourselves. We could not do it as part of SCLA and that's why you get this separate organization, apart from the public library section of SCLA.
RVW: I saw in the minutes of the State Library Board in '73 or '74, the public library section of SCLA had come and appeared before the Board. It was hard for me to tell what kind of reception they were getting, but I gathered that Miss Walker was a little bit insulted. She was writing the minutes but it wasn't clear...
CL: That's right. She took this very personally. We were questioning her judgment, we were questioning her authority, we had the effrontery to want to manage our own affairs. For a time you couldn't find out when the State Library Board met, she called it at will. It met in secret. If you inquired, you did not receive the information. Eventually, I wrote to the chairman of the State Library Board and said that I had made a request several times for the date of the meeting, and that I wished to be informed. I got no answer, and got no answer and finally I wrote again and said if you wish me to proceed under Freedom of Information, I will.
RVW: Who was the chair that you wrote to?
CL: Dr. Carlanna Hendrick at Francis Marion...the second time she answered herself and I got a post card??I think I still have it?? which informed me of the meeting date. As it turned out I was providentially hindered from being there myself, so I called Penny Albright and Sarah McMaster, I think it was, and asked them to attend the State Library Board meeting. I felt that it was important once we had gotten our foot in the door that somebody should be there.
RVW: Was it a cold reception from Dr. Hendrick?
CL: No, I certainly don't think she relished being put in the middle, but on the other hand, it was her responsibility. You can see the state of things, that we had to proceed in that manner to make a presentation to the State Library.
RVW: One of the interesting things that is happening at this time is the civil rights era, let's talk about it first in terms of the State Library, particularly Miss Walker. What was your impression of her attitude about integrating public libraries and the civil rights movement in general?
CL: Her public attitude was always "move cautiously, but move" and we were advised to be in compliance with the laws. I think it took her by surprise. In some cities and counties blacks sued for access to the libraries. The library in Greenville was shut down, the one in Florence was shut down, the one in Sumter (I think) was shut down. I think that came as a surprise to her. She did not integrate the staff of the State Library for a good long while. I couldn't cite dates on that. It was longer than it should have been. We never had any trouble in Horry County because of the wording??I told you before??that we would provide free public library service to the entire people. We did not have that trouble, but other libraries in the state were not so fortunate and they had laws which actually prohibited them from serving blacks...and those laws had to be struck.
RVW: The public library folks were meeting with Miss Walker on some kind of regular basis, before APLA is formed?
CL: We met whenever she summoned us to Columbia. The only other times that we ever got together was as a public library section at the annual conferences of SCLA. We were summoned to Columbia when the new rules were laid down for LSCA. Whatever the emphasis was??whatever the new grants??restrictions, might be, we were brought into Columbia to discuss what the State Library was going to do. The State Library wrote all the grants. We signed an agreement to participate under our state aid contracts, but they actually wrote for us, all the grants. Those grants were carefully tailored to further the objectives of the State Library, which were clearly spelled out and to which we subscribed. I really had no quarrel with that...to raise the number of books per capita, to raise the professional level of librarianship and so on.
RVW: I was asking specifically??just to get the context during the time??these libraries were being picketed by blacks. You're saying that at these meetings your impression of Miss Walker's surprise at what was happening...is that what you're basing it on?
CL: Yes, and just conversations because in those days she used to get out in the counties a good deal. She met with boards and visited with us. Of course we had contact through our field representatives too...I would have to say that I don't think she was terribly enthusiastic but she was a professional government servant and she knew that this would come and she was interested in seeing it coming in as peaceable way as she could.
RVW: Here in Horry County, because of your charter, you first have a black branch and it stays in business how long?
CL: Five years. We got rid of it eventually because it was substandard. We had a black intern for example under a State Library program, early on.
RVW: When do you recall blacks first starting to use the main library?
CL: Well, they always had to a certain extent. Very often professional blacks, like the superintendent of the school at that point. This was before they had county superintendent??each school had one. Those people would call and then send someone for the books they wanted. That was pretty much the practice when I got here. I really began to encourage them. I visited in the schools; I went to talk to various leaders, and invited them to come and use the public library, main building. They were not eager to do it.
RVW: Your board is encouraging you? Or you're having to push them along?
CL: It never became an issue in my board. I remember one time I had given a National Education Week speech over at Whittemore High School, which was the black high school, and after the next board meeting, the chair called me aside and said that he had received a complaint from the chief of police that I was inciting the blacks to riot. So I said, "I expect he had reference to the fact that I went over and gave a speech and I happen to have the text of the speech if you would like to read it". It was all that good stuff about staying in school and pursuing your education and all that kind of thing. He and I laughed about it and he never brought it up in an open meeting of the board. I'm sure that I did have criticism other than that but it was simply a matter that if you were the county librarian you're the only county librarian anybody has...so it becomes your responsibility to go where ever you're invited and I never turned down an invitation.
RVW: You mentioned that you had been a member of the State Human Relations Council. How did this happen? Was this an interest you brought from Washington to here?
CL: This came about through a young Episcopal rector who came to Conway and who was interested in establishing some way in which blacks and whites could communicate. He was sent by one of his parishioners to talk to me, as somebody who would know the black leadership and be able to talk with them. He and I became associated in what was known informally as just The Forum, which was a discussion group in which a topic would be announced publicly and anybody who wished to come and discuss it could come. It dealt with a lot of really sticky problems over time and was in existence when the town established its official biracial commission. He was already serving as an intern preparatory to being a member of the Board of the Human Relations Council. He got them to take me and Covel Moore who was a black school teacher then and is now an AME minister appointed as interns and we accompanied him to his training sessions.
RVW: I've heard you talk about the Independent Republic of Horry...is it your view that Horry County is different? It sounds like it is different in terms of race relations with the rest of SC at this time
CL: Horry County is certainly different. That nickname goes back to the 1840's or 50's. We were very isolated and we were much accustomed to doing things our own way. I think there is kind of a bootstrap attitude here, that you do it yourself. As a native, I guess I had more freedom to define my role as public librarian than someone who might have come from the outside in here. I did have that freedom. In Horry County because there is only 1 black in every 4 population, there was never the fear of being totally swamped. That occurred in those counties where the resistance was so high because they felt that they would simply be lost in a black majority. We had more personal relationships. There was never a time when people didn't know their opposite numbers in the black population...or know the leadership of the black population. There were just more personal relationships which cross color lines. Consequently, things happened very quietly and on a very personal basis here. For example, one of the leading department stores in town suddenly had a young black woman in its business office. There was no fanfare, no nothing, no tootling of horns. Shortly thereafter, that same store had 2 black male clerks working on the floor, in the men's department, to be sure, but nonetheless, very visible...and there was no criticism.
RVW: What about on the library board?
CL: It was a long time before we got blacks on the library board. We eventually did and that was a matter of identifying people who wished to serve and seeing to it that in the normal rotation, their names came up and they were appointed. It didn't happen until after home rule.
RVW: County council is receptive to this?
CL: Well, county council did not resist this because on the first council there were black representatives. As a matter of fact, one of those first male clerks became a county council member.
RVW: We need to talk about SCLA and your dealings with it. You described it as of 1960?65 as a conservative organization? What do you mean by that?
CL: I would say that the leadership in the state at the time was never interested in experimenting or leading the way or anything else, it was more an organization for professional recognition...patting your colleagues on the back, meeting and greeting once a year. The offices became the honors which were accorded the profession in the state, that kind of thing. You could never get them to do any lobbying as a group. The official excuse was that they didn't want to endanger their tax exempt status. They would never take up any kinds of subjects which were ticklish. At one point, one of the most conservative among the public librarians was chair of the public library section and wanted to have a discussion on censorship. He and I talked about it and I said it will never float that way, but if you present it as book selection you might get by with it. The idea went up?and at that time each of the sections: programs had to be passed on by the executive committee??and it went to the executive committee and was turned down...because it might raise the question of censorship. Their attitude was: if you don't stick your head up over the log, they won't shoot at you.
RVW: Who are the powers, names, and institutions dominating SCLA at this time?
CL: Miss Walker was chair that particular year. There were the people at the University and the people at the large academic institutions. I'm having trouble with names...
RVW: Mitchell Reams? Ken Toombs?
CL: Ken Toombs came fairly late to the scene.
RVW: Early '70's or late 60's.
CL: Alfred Rawlinson was there for so many years. Mitchell came in under Rawlinson. I can't remember whether this was after Mitchell was at Francis Marion or not. I don't think he was a member of the executive committee at this particular time because I was at that committee session. They met in Myrtle Beach because they were going to have the conference there at the Ocean Forest that year and I was there as local arrangements chair, which is how I happened to be in on it. I never accepted offices in SCLA, I never felt the need to. I would do committee work, which I dearly loved because it was a working situation where you felt like you were accomplishing something...like the standards committee and I found that much more to my liking.
RVW: You were asked to be an officer for president, but were not interested?
CL: Right, it was not something I needed.
RVW: What about the prospects of changing the organization? Did you think it was possible at that time?
CL: I didn't think so. I think it has changed in some respects now. I think that it is much more focused on the problems of the profession, as it should be. Although it still is the chief method by which honor is conferred in this state, it does not seem to me that this is any longer its primary function. My perception is that it has changed.
RVW: Certainly when I came in '78?'79 folks said that it had been dominated by Cooper library and by the State Library. I don't have that impression now, 10 years later.
CL: I think there is a good deal of younger blood.
RVW: It has spread out way beyond those 2 libraries, certainly. It is an interesting organization. When I have tried to get a look at its history, it's very difficult to see what it has done. Of course I have focused??principally because I have been interviewing the black librarians as part of this project??I have been interested in its role in that whole period of time. It's not an impressive role. Were you at the meeting in Greenville in 1963 when there was controversy about whether the blacks could attend the meal functions?
CL: I'm sure I must have been because I attended almost every conference. I was hindered by a hurricane once, I think, other than that...I would not, in '63, have been very much on the inside discussions.
RVW: Jessie Ham[?] was president at that time. I don't know if you saw in the paper that she died yesterday, or a couple of days ago.
CL: No, I did not know that.
RVW: The notice was in The State yesterday.
CL: Where was she buried?
RVW: Some place in Columbia, I think, because she was living in Columbia. She was one of the folks I was hoping to interview but I didn't really realize she was alive until Roger Hux mentioned it to me and then when I was over at the State Library yesterday, Betty Callaham told me she had died and I saw it in the paper. She was president during that time when there a good deal of controversy about whether or not the meal function would be open to blacks. The hotel management said yes...
CL: In those days things were not always in your own hands. You couldn't always make a unilateral decision about something like that.
RVW: In the correspondence...of course it's easy to say it now in retrospect, but the correspondence is tinged toward: How can we protect ourselves and fool the blacks into thinking they are being accepted? That's my interpretation. It needs a lot more research to see, and of course the documentation is kind of pitiful. The records are not very good. I've interviewed 2 of the black librarians who were at that meeting??gotten their impressions. Trying to get a good feel about SCLA's influence...
CL: I wasn't interested in moving up the ladder. My focus always remained on the section rather than the organization as a whole.
RVW: Was the section of SCLA pretty good?
CL: We were a very close knit group, and yes, good support. We were a mixed bag because the section at that time was open not only to professionals, but to non?professionals as well, and people at all levels of the administrative hierarchy in libraries, which was another reason that APLA was so badly needed. The directors needed discussion among themselves. You had to tune the programs at public libraries section to be interesting to everybody. They had to be something to which you could relate no matter your responsibility in the library was...including trustees, for heavens sake! That was always the thing dearest to my heart. The work that we did on the standards committee I've always felt good about. It was done by us, for us. Miss Walker always sat as an ex officio member of the standards committee. We were on our own pretty much to fashion what we thought would be achievable goals for SC. The standards that were set by ALA were so unrealistic in terms of what we could ever hope for. It was kind of a tricky thing. If this state chapter wanted to be part of ALA. you couldn't pass standards which were in contradiction to those established. It all had to be worded and designed so that you could have some goals which you could hope to achieve and still remain under the general cover of ALA.
RVW: One of the things you mentioned earlier, when you thought about taking the job at Horry County, was to discover if you would like being a public librarian ?? in terms of doing the politics. What I've always heard about Catherine Lewis is that she is a fantastic politicker on the local and state levels. Did you come to like it? Is that a reputation that you feel... that's a difficult question! Let's take it one at a time. Did you come to like it? And how did you get good at it?
CL: I enjoy it. I enjoy government and playing that game, yes I certainly do. I doubt if I was good at it, but I certainly didn't achieve a lot of things that I hoped for, like a library building. None?the?less, it is so fascinating to be that environment and to be a participant in local government... it really is, and unless you're willing to get out there and scrap, you don't really need to be a public librarian because it's so much a part of the job description. You have to be able, time and time again, to smile in defeat and go home and regroup and come back another time. It's good discipline. You learn that you win some and you lose some. That becomes part of the whole thing. You don't lose willingly, and it doesn't mean you're not going to fight just as hard the next time. But if you lose once, you go home and say, ok, this is the way to do this better. To gain the respect of your colleagues in government is a valuable thing.
RVW: I suspect Horry County is like most southern counties ?? it's run by the good?ole?boy system.
CL: That's right.
RVW: How did you fit into that?
CL: I used to laugh in APLA. They made me the delegate to the SC Association of Counties. I used to say that I spoke both English and Good?Ole?Boy. To a certain extent, you take on the coloration. You get to the point where it may not be your preference to do the back?slapping or to be back?slapped, but you learn to live with that, and the jokes and all the rest of it, the camaraderie that's so much a part of it. I think there are skills, the ability to work a crowd, the ability to see the connections, to follow politics and understand the trends, to know the background of the individual politicians so you can see what the coalitions are. It's fascinating.
RVW: You came by this intellectually and by birthright?
CL: Right, I'm a native. I think that's true.
RVW: As I said, from what I've heard when I first came here, you were the supreme person in the state good at that.
CL: When I look at my failures, I doubt that!
RVW: It's particularly interesting that the only other person I know of who also has that reputation was Miss Walker...that's what I'm trying to get at. Two folks with those kinds of abilities to do that, and strong personalities, must run up against some problems...
CL: We did. We often clashed. I have the greatest respect for her but to say that we never clashed, not so. We did. It was a love/hate relationship in a lot of ways. I would have coveted her respect, I do think I had it. She certainly has mine. Even when I was critical of her, I had to admire the single?mindedness with which she pursued excellence. She really did and she deserves a lot of credit.
RVW: She's an interesting character.
CL: If you want a feminist study, study the strong women in library science in this state from that period. She and Nancy Jane were formidable.
RVW: We have interviewed Nancy Jane Day, she is an interesting person. I hate to quit but we better...we may have to continue this one of these days again.
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