In Calhoun County public library service began in 1912 with the organization of the Calhoun County Public Library by the St. Matthews Literary Society. The library operated from 1913 to 1926 at which time it was absorbed into the library of a newly completed public school.
In 1935 the Works Progress Administration set up a library project to demonstrate over a five-year period what a free public library would mean to rural communities. This project provided the opportunity that the people in Calhoun County were looking for to revive the Calhoun County Free Public Library. With the assistance of the County Superintendent of Education and other leaders of the community, the Calhoun County Public Library was reopened on June 1, 1936 with Mrs. Lillian M. Cain as librarian and supervisor of the library project. At its opening the library had about 400 volumes, a loan of books from the WPA, and a gift of over 500 books from Mrs. Julia Peterkin. Mrs. Peterkin, a renowned authoress who had won the Pulitzer Prize, was a county resident living at her plantation, Lang Syne.
To extend library service to rural communities and farm families, Miss Lula Chriesman, Home Demonstration Agent for Calhoun County, took out to her clubs for farm women boxes of books to be circulated within the community. This rural service was so popular and grew so rapidly that a bookmobile was soon secured and routes established over the entire county.
In 1942 when WPA assistance was withdrawn, Calhoun County provided an appropriation to continue county library service.
Books and reading were always popular in Calhoun county and the library flourished. The temporary quarters occupied by the library was soon outgrown and in 1954 one of the community's handsome old residences was completely rebuilt and renovated for library use and in December of that year the library occupied its new quarters. At the time of its completion a part of the building was devoted to the collections and museum of the Calhoun County Historical Commission but in recent years a separate building has been provided for this agency and the library occupies the entire building. The library building is now on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1950 the West End Branch was established and in 1959 the County Delegation appropriated funds for the handsome building which the West End Branch now occupies.
The Calhoun County Library has participated in State Aid for public libraries since the program was established in 1943 by the State Library Board. It has also participated in all of the LSCA grant programs administered by the State Library for which it qualified.
With strong local support and grant funds, the library has been able to improve and extend its services throughout the county. Bookmobile service remains popular in the rural areas of the county and in the small county communities. With an adequate budget, an appreciative reading public and an active board, the Calhoun County Library can look forward to a successful future.
Mrs. P.W. Fairy, St. Matthews, 1946-48
Mrs. F.M. Wannamaker, St. Matthews, 1948-78
Mrs. Margaret Hane, Ft. Motte, 1978-79
Mrs. Louise B. Stone, St. Matthews, 1979-
Mrs. Lillian Cain, 1944-47
Mrs. Clara T. McCabe, 1947-74
Marian Alanna Turner (Mrs. Robert Blair), 1974-77
Mrs. Jennie Redmond, 1977-
Estellene P. Walker,
"So Good and Necessary a Work": The Public Library in South Carolina, 1698-1980
(Columbia: South Carolina State Library, 1981), p. 15.
A note on the text