On Monday afternoon, November 30, 1953, the Barnwell County Library was officially opened by the County Delegation and the County Library Board. With the exception of a few months of county library service shared with Allendale County in the 1940's and a subscription library in Williston, this was the first public library since the county was founded in 1798. The opening of the library was a significant milestone, representing a dream persistently pursued, not for months, but for years, by several determined citizens. Notable among this group was Mrs. Ben P. Davies, Jr., who had untiringly worked for county-wide library service. Tangible encouragement came early in 1953 when Mr. and Mrs. C.G. Fuller donated their home "to the town and the county of Barnwell for use as a library building." In May of 1953 a legislative act created the Barnwell County Library. In June of the same year the Barnwell County Library Board held an organizational meeting electing Mrs. Ben P. Davies, Jr., as its first chairman and appointing Mrs. Hilda K. Stabovitz as the first librarian.
One of the first jobs of the new library board was the renovation and furnishing of the Fuller home as the headquarters of the Barnwell County Library. This was a major undertaking as the mansion had been vacant for a good many years and was in need of major repairs. Careful plans were drawn up and their execution carefully supervised by the board. The result was a handsome, modern public library headquarters. Comfortable and attractive furniture, a pleasing color scheme and an attractive floor plan contributed much to the popularity of library service in Barnwell County.
Early in 1954 bookmobile service was initiated and branch libraries opened in Blackville and Williston. In 1958, four years after its establishment, the Barnwell County Library joined Aiken and Edgefield in a three-county regional library demonstration program planned by the South Carolina State Library and funded under the Library Services Act of 1956. The regional demonstration program with the establishment of the Aiken-Barnwell-Edgefield Regional Library. Bamberg County subsequently joined the region making it a four-county system. The regional program, through sharing resources of all types, resulted in a better level of service in Barnwell County and in the other three-county participants.
Through the professional interest and work of board members, librarians, and interested citizens, the Barnwell County Library has become a community center offering enriching experiences to suit varied tastes. State and federal aid administered by the State Library have significantly enhanced the library's services for its public.
A gift to the library from the estate of C.G. Fuller provided for the construction in 1978 of a building adjacent to the county library building. This facility houses the Barnwell County Museum and also provides the large meeting room which contributes significantly to library programs and activities.
The Barnwell County Library stands as a fine example of cooperation and active interest at many levels. Single individuals, local industry, Friends of the Library organizations, other community groups, local newspaper and radio, as well as county and state officials continue to contribute to its welfare. Much dedicated service stands back of the Barnwell County Library, and its growth and development have justified the efforts expended.
Mrs. Ben P. Davies, Jr., Barnwell 1952-63; 1965-72
Mrs. W. C. Buist, Blackville, 1963-65; 1972-
Mrs. Hilda Stabowitz, 1953-54
Mrs. Fay B. McNab, 1954-67
Mrs. W. T. Marshburn, 1967-71
Mrs. Hopkins Weston, 1971-75
Mrs. William Green Jenkins, 1975-
Estellene P. Walker,
"So Good and Necessary a Work": The Public Library in South Carolina, 1698-1980
(Columbia: South Carolina State Library, 1981), pp. 12-13.
A note on the text