The first effort to establish library service in Anderson was in 1888 when a group of citizens led by Reverend A.A. Marshall made an attempt to establish a public library in the city. The necessary support was lacking and the effort failed, but a year later, at a meeting of the Women's Christian Temperance Union of Anderson, measures were adopted to establish public reading rooms. On January 16, 1900, the Anderson Library Association was organized with Mrs. M.L. Bonham as President. A substantial number of library patrons joined the Association with the payment of an annual subscription of $1.00 per person.
Quarters for the new library were provided in the City Hall and in October, 1900, the City Council made an assignment of $10.00 monthly for library support.
A major objective of the Anderson Library Association became the acquisition of an adequate library building to house service in Anderson. With this in mind the Carnegie Foundation was approached for a grant for library construction and eventually provided a grant of $17,500 to cover the cost of construction and equipping the building.
The grant was made with the understanding that the City of Anderson would support the library each year with an appropriation equaling ten percent of the grant. At the time the grant was received from Carnegie, Colonel Joseph Newton Brown gave the Anderson Library Association a donation of $10,000. Of this, $4,000 was used to secure the lot upon which the building was constructed, $1,000 for equipment and $5,000 to establish an endowment fund for the library.
The library building was completed in 1908 and on February 27 of that year dedication ceremonies were held and the building opened to the public. Initially the library owned 2,350 volumes. Mrs. Susan Whitfield Geiger was the first librarian.
In 1943 additional space for readers within the library was created with the renovation and redecoration of a large area in the basement to provide a children's room and relieve overcrowded conditions in the upstairs area. The children's room was made possible through the generosity of two Anderson women, one of whom gave $1,000 for the renovation and the other $5,000 for the purchase of books. While public library service was developing in the Town of Anderson, service was also being developed in the county and in the towns of Belton, Honea Path and Pendleton. Rural library service was first established in August 1937 with the assistance of the Works Progress Administration which provided personnel, books, bookmobile, and operating expenses. Miss Sally Whitaker was the first librarian and she was succeeded in the early 1940's by Mrs. Emma S. Cole who operated the bookmobile in Anderson County for nearly thirty-five years.
Library service in Belton was the result of the interest of the Belton Civic League which established a beginning library on April 7, 1914. With WPA assistance a separate library building was erected in the early months of 1939. The Civic League continued its support by donating $1,000 towards the construction of this building. Eventually a Belton Library Association was formed and took over the operation of the library. The Belton Library became a branch of the Anderson County Library in 1958. In Honea Path public library development was due largely to the interest of Miss Jennie Erwin, a school teacher, who sought the aid of Andrew Carnegie in realizing her dream of a library. In 1907 the Honea Path Library Association received a grant of $10,000 from the Carnegie Corporation for the construction of the Honea Path Library building. At the time of its construction Honea Path was the smallest town in the United States which could boast a Carnegie Library. The library became a branch of the Anderson County Library system in 1958.
Pendleton is the oldest and most historic town in Anderson County. The earliest record of a library in Pendleton was in the early 1800's when a circulating library was organized. Although circulating libraries were very popular at the time in the Charleston area, this was the first such library in the upper part of the state. In 1811 the library was incorporated. It continued to operate until around 1825 when it was absorbed by the Pendleton Male Academy. Library service was revived in the early 1900's through the interest of Miss Sallie Trescot, who was determined that the people of Pendleton should have library service. With the cooperation of the Town council the library was established in a small brick building located in the park in the center of town. In 1921 the Town Council agreed to provide a small salary to Miss Trescot as librarian. The library did not long survive her death in 1944, and for many years the only library service in Pendleton was provided by the Anderson County bookmobile. With the assistance of the Lions Club a new library building has been built in Pendleton which will house a branch of the Anderson County Library.
For several years interested citizens had worked for a county-wide system of library service in Anderson County. Real progress towards achieving this goal began in 1956 when a county-wide meeting was held in Anderson to discuss the possibility of establishing a unified county library system. At this meeting a fact finding committee to study the matter and to make recommendations at a future meeting was appointed by the presiding officer. After a thorough study and survey, this committee reported at a meeting on March 11, 1957, pointing out that Anderson County was served by three separate town libraries and a rural bookmobile, which resulted in much duplication in administration, book collection and staff. The report emphasized that much better service could be provided by combining the separate facilities. A request was made to the Legislative Delegation to authorize a referendum on the question of establishing a county-wide library system to be supported by 1 1/2 mill tax increase. The referendum was held on June 10, 1958 and Anderson County voters soundly approved a county-wide library system by a vote of 9,228 in favor of the system to 6,491 against it. The new Anderson County Library system officially went into operation on October 1, 1958.
With the appointment of a new seven-member board which would govern the Anderson County Library, agreements were made between the Board of Trustees of the Anderson County Library and the Boards of the libraries in Belton and Honea Path whereby these libraries would become branches of the county library system. A contract was signed with the South Carolina State Library Board for a three-year demonstration of county library service which would partially be funded by an LSCA grant.
An initial objective was the improvement of public library service throughout the county. Steps were immediately taken to modernize service from the branches in Honea Path and Belton. Both buildings were renovated and redecorated and their book collections reorganized and greatly augmented by additional books from the general county collection. Branches were established in Williamston and in Pelzer. A new walk-in type bookmobile brought modern library service into the rural areas of the county.
With a progressive program and heavy demands for service, the Anderson County Library soon outgrew its headquarters building. With the backing of the entire county a drive was made to secure an adequate building in a convenient location. With the assistance of the County Legislative Delegation a downtown location on the corner of McDuffie and Greenville Streets was secured and the funds appropriated for building construction. A grant of $100,000 from LSCA funds under its administration was made to the project by the South Carolina State Library Board. The building was completed in 1971 and dedicated on January 5, 1972.
Carl Stone became director of the Anderson County Library in August of 1974. Special emphasis was placed on developing the branch and bookmobile services. The county's legal collection was moved from the Court house to the main library for easy access by local attorneys and is maintained by the library staff. In 1979-80, a book security system was installed in the main library to deter the theft of materials. In 1979 the library initiated Project T.O.T. (Teach Our Tots) under an Appalachian Regional Commission grant to purchase toys and other preschool learning materials and to provide training in parenting skills. The library continues to emphasize improvement of book collection and the addition of professional staff to provide better and more efficient service to Anderson County's library patrons.
J.M. Wingo, Pendleton, 1957-59
W.A. Hunt, Anderson, 1959-61
Arthur Klugh, Jr., Anderson, 1961-63
Mrs. Oliver Norwood, Anderson, 1963-64
Mrs. W.H. Sullivan, Honea Path, 1964-67
Harold Sullivan, Anderson, 1967-
Mrs. Bettie Wall Daly, 1957-60
Mrs. Sarah C. Smith, 1960-65
Annie Frances Blackman, 1965-69
Cyril Russell, 1969-73
Carl Stone, 1973-
Estellene P. Walker,
"So Good and Necessary a Work": The Public Library in South Carolina, 1698-1980
(Columbia: South Carolina State Library, 1981), pp. 11-12.
A note on the text
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