Aiken County has a long library history demonstrating the active concern of Aiken citizens for libraries and good reading.
The present Aiken County Public Library resulted from the unification of the Dibble Memorial Library and the Aiken County Library to form a single system to serve the city and county of Aiken. Aiken's library history began in 1880 with the establishment of the Aiken Library, a subscription library maintained by its members. In 1926 this library was re-established as the Dibble Memorial Library, named in honor of Mr. H.M. Dibble, who at the time of his death in 1921 was chairman of the Aiken Library Board and had left provisions in his will for a library building. A major contribution to the building fund came from a benefit performance of the great comedian Will Rogers. Arrangements for the event were made by library board members with the help of Mr. Fred Post who was a friend of the popular comedian. Reportedly, there were present on this occasion the largest number of millionaires ever assembled at one time in Aiken. In 1945, W.B.S. Winans, who later was to play an important part in the Aiken County Public Library growth and in the regional library development, became chairman of the Dibble Memorial Library Board.
Paralleling the development of library service in the town of Aiken was the development of library service for rural Aiken County. The year 1935 saw a pioneer library demonstration sponsored by the County Council of Farm Women. Members of Aiken County Home Demonstration clubs obtained $300 from the County Delegation to demonstrate the use and need of a traveling library in rural Aiken County. Spearheading this project was Mrs. Vance Livingston of the Kitching Mill community. The service was enthusiastically received throughout Aiken County and in 1936, after a three-month demonstration, the County Council of Farm Women made recommendations regarding a permanent program. The Aiken County Library Commission was created by legislative act and $2000 appropriated by the delegation for bookmobile service. Headquarters was a room in the County Agricultural Building, which continued as the Aiken County Library until 1950.
Mrs. Leon S. Holly, who had become librarian of the Aiken Library in 1921, continued as librarian of the Dibble Memorial Library until 1935 when she resigned to organize the county library demonstration. Mrs. Holly remained librarian of the Aiken County Library until 1950 when the Aiken County Library and the Dibble Memorial Library joined forces and the Aiken County Library Commission came into being. Mr. W.B.S. Winans was named chairman of the new Commission and Miss Josephine Crouch became the first librarian of the new system. Under Miss Crouch's direction branches were established in Belvedere, Jackson, New Ellenton and Wagener. In 1960 the Nancy Carson Library, a North Augusta municipal institution, joined the Aiken County and regional system. This library serves a population comparable in size to that of Aiken.
The Aiken County Library took a major part in the establishment of a regional library demonstration program. This program was funded the South Carolina State Library Board under the Library Services Act of 1956. The initial demonstration program included Aiken, Barnwell and Edgefield counties. A fourth county, Bamberg, joined the regional system following an extension of the demonstration program. Membership in the regional program improved library service throughout Aiken County and increased the effectiveness of both reference and interlibrary loan service.
With the growth of service it became apparent that a larger and better located headquarters library was necessary if the library was to continue to provide a high level of service to its public. Ronald D. Royal, Chairman of the Aiken County Public Library Commission, headed up the campaign to secure larger quarters. One of the most beautiful old mansions in Aiken, "Banksia," was secured from the county for conversion into the headquarters library building. The South Carolina State Library Board brought in as a consultant on the site of Banksia an outstanding authority in the field, J. Russell Bailey, of Range, Virginia. Mr. Bailey reviewed the site and found it adequate in size and most acceptable from the standpoint of accessibility. The Friends of the Aiken County Library conducted an enthusiastic fund raising campaign to assist with necessary renovation and furnishing. In 1974 Banksia became the home of the Aiken County Library. The beauty of the building and its surroundings added significant dimensions to enjoyable library use.
Effective library service in Aiken and throughout the four county region has been consistently supported and enhanced by South Carolina State Library programs. Book collection improvement projects, periodical and reference grants, and library development grants--all made possible by the Library Services Act funds administered by the State Library--have made lasting contributions to the library.
Through the years, milestones in Aiken's library growth have represented certain citizens' concerted belief in the public library. Board members' generous contributions of time and effort, the interest and assistance of the South Carolina State Library and the support of public-spirited citizens have provided the foundation of public library service in Aiken County.
W. B. S. Winans, Aiken, 1950-62
Arthur A. Foreman, Jr., Aiken, 1962-67
Mrs. Charles R. Powell, Jackson, 1967-68
Douglas S. Garvin, Aiken, 1968-72
Ronald Royal, Aiken, 1972-76
Otis L. Baughman, Jr., Aiken, 1977-
Josephine Crouch, 1951-58
Mrs. Elizabeth C. Moore, 1958-66
Mrs. Maurine Lackey, 1969-79
Mrs. Nellie E. Smith, 1979-
Estellene P. Walker,
"So Good and Necessary a Work": The Public Library in South Carolina, 1698-1980
(Columbia: South Carolina State Library, 1981), p.8.
A note on the text
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