Cherokee County Public Library

Public library service in Cherokee County had its origin in the organization of the Cherokee Library Association on November 7, 1902 at a meeting held in the county courthouse in Gaffney. At that meeting the City Council granted a free room in the City Hall to the library and appropriated $500 to help get the library started. The Literary Club donated 200 volumes as a beginning book collection. The library opened on April 2, 1903 and until 1905 was operated by volunteer librarians. In that year Mrs. Pratt Pierson was elected librarian at a salary of $10 a month. Mrs. Pierson remained as chief librarian for thirty-seven years until her retirement in 1942 when the Gaffney Public Library became the Cherokee County Circulating Library.

As the use of the library grew and the book collection increased, it became apparent that a separate library building was essential if the library's full potential of service was to be realized. An appeal was made to the Carnegie Corporation for a building grant and after two years of correspondence, the corporation agreed to finance the construction of the library building provided the local community would provide a suitable lot and meet the obligation of local financial support. The interest of the entire community was aroused and the City Council and County Commissioner agreed to provide a lot for the new structure. The donated site, however, did not meet with community approval. In this emergency Mrs. E.H. DeCamp and W.J. Wilkins canvassed the town and in four days raised enough money to buy a lot on Limestone Street in the center of town. With this obstacle overcome, a contract for the erection of the library was let, construction begun, and a new library opened in September of 1914.

Under Mrs. Pierson's leadership the library grew both in book resources and in usefulness to the community. In 1936 a new wing was added to the library building with funds raised by the Women's Club.

In 1941 an agreement was signed with the WPA establishing a WPA demonstration of county library service. Up to that time library service had been limited to the town of Gaffney. The new project enabled service to be extended to the entire county and a branch library for Blacks to be opened in Gaffney. The demonstration of county-wide library service was an immediate success. The bookmobile carried books into even the most remote rural areas and the small communities were served by branches and book deposits. The increase of the service and its popularity reinforced the move toward establishing a county-wide public library system. A Cherokee County Library Board was organized in August of 1941 and presented to the County Delegation a bill calling for the creation of a county library system supported by a one mill tax. This bill was passed and the new library system established. Miss Mary Cox became the first county librarian.

By 1969 the library had completely outgrown the Carnegie building. It was very evident that any further progress demanded adequate housing for services, book collection, and staff. The County Supervisor immediately appointed a committee to study the need for a new building and the proper location. In March of 1971 a site was purchased on the corner of East Rutledge Avenue and Johnson Street. The new library building was funded through the sale of bonds, a $75,000 grant from the State Library Board of Federal funds under its administration, and a grant of $51,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission. A 15,000 square-foot building was planned as a memorial to all Cherokee citizens who had given their lives in World War I and II, Korea, and Vietnam. The building was completed in August 1972 and formally dedicated on December 3, 1972. In February 1974 the Cherokee County Public Library building was recognized for design excellence by the South Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects and was featured on the cover of the architectural issue of Library Journal.

The Blacksburg Branch of the library has kept pace with the headquarters library and has had to be enlarged repeatedly in order to accommodate expanding service. The most recent renovation was in 1973 when the branch was more than doubled in size.

The Friends of the Cherokee County Public Library organized in 1973 has played an important part in enriching and expanding the library program. At their meetings such notable authors as Ben Greer, Elizabeth Boatwright Coker, and Dr. Louis B. Wright have been featured. The Friends have a special resource in their "Author's Scholarship Fund." A loan from this fund aided Dr. Helen Callison and Dr. Bobby Moss to publish "Cherokee County's First Half Century Through the Lens of June H. Carr, Photographer."

The library has planned and carried out many special programs. In cooperation with Limestone College and the Gaffney Ledger, the library sponsored the Bicentennial Series, American Issues Forum. The library also participated in the Films Plus Project, an experimental program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Cherokee County Arts Festival is conducted jointly by the library, the Cherokee Art Council and the Friends of the Library.

After seventy-eight years of service, the Cherokee County Public Library remains a valued community resource and the object of great pride to the whole county.

Board Chairmen
Rev. C.A. Kirby, Gaffney, 1946-47
Mrs. Claudia T. Sanders, Gaffney, 1947-50
Mrs. Elizabeth G. Hinton, Gaffney, 1950-58; 1967-68
John C. Fowler, Gaffney, 1958-61;1964-67
Mrs. J.V. Phillips, Gaffney, 1961-1964
Garrison G. Watts, Gaffney, 1968-1972
R. Dean Ross, Gaffney, 1972-76
Mrs. Bright G. Parker, Gaffney, 1976-

Mrs. E.V. Hinton, 1945-46
Nell Garrard, 1946-72
David A. Lyon, IV, 1972-77
David E. Eden, 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. 17.

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