The Clarendon County Library is the youngest county library in the state. Organized in 1977, its beginnings go back to 1880 when the Manning Literary Society was organized with the purpose of establishing a public library. Raising the money necessary to operate a library by private subscription and by public fund raising proved too difficult for this society and for its successor, the Manning Women's club. It was not until 1905 when a $1,000 donation was presented for a library building by the Levi family that a library program began. The Levi contribution was matched by the City of Manning. Public subscriptions were raised and private donations made. Land for the library was purchased in 1909 and the building constructed between 1909 and 1910.
The Manning Library is architecturally significant as a local interpretation of the Classical Revival style. It is believed that the same architectural firm which built the Clarendon County Courthouse, Shand and Lafaye of Columbia, South Carolina, also constructed the Manning Library. Among the notable architectural features of the library are its pedimented Roman Doric portico, engaged pilasters, parapet and dome, and coupled 1/1 windows inserted into arches.
The Manning Women's Club continued sponsorship of the Manning Library. Many of the early librarians were volunteers from this group. When the Manning Civic League was formed as a successor to the Women's Club, a librarian was employed at a small salary for three afternoons a week. For some twenty years the South Carolina State Library Board provided a book deposit in the Manning Library to enrich the book collection and to provide a greater variety of reading materials for children and adults than was possible with limited local funds.
In 1967 legislation was enacted establishing the Clarendon County Library Commission. Mrs. Sally Dow, the wife of a local industrial executive, was elected the first Chairman of the Board. She worked energetically for the establishment of the public library service in Clarendon County as long as she lived in Manning. Ten years later, in 1977, after careful planning the Clarendon County Library Commission under the chairmanship of Mrs. James Hugh McFaddin, Jr., realized the fulfillment of the long-awaited goal when the County Council approved funding for the county's first public library. During this period, the Clarendon County Library, in an effort to provide some public library service to the entire county, had contracted with the Sumter County Library for bookmobile service to the major communities of Clarendon County. With the establishment of the library, a large grant was secured from the South Carolina State Library to aid the library during its first three years of operation. Mrs. Alanna T. Bair was appointed librarian by the Commission and was given the responsibility of organizing the library program.
The Manning Civic League continued as a sponsor of the Manning Library until late in 1976 when it deeded the building to Clarendon County to serve as the temporary headquarters of the new Clarendon County Library. County funds were made available to renovate and furnish the building.
Established for less than three years, the Clarendon County Public Library has registered approximately thirteen percent of the county population as borrowers. The book collection has grown to 10,000 volumes and its present headquarters is completely outgrown. Further progress of the library program is hampered by lack of space for both books and people. In order to organize the overwhelming public support of the library behind the campaign for the construction of a modern library building, a Friends of the Library group was organized in 1978. A site for a new library building is under consideration. With strong community support, it seems probable that the library's main problem of housing will soon be solved. In the meantime the Manning Library will continue to house the library as it has done for the past seventy years.
The Manning Library was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and will convert to a museum archives facility when a modern library building has been constructed. Such a facility will aid in the preservation of Clarendon County's artifacts, history, and heritage.
Kendrick R. Johnson, Manning, 1967-68;1977-78
Mrs. James Hugh McFaddin, Manning, 1968-77
Mrs. Maurice Kirkpatrick, 1978-
Alanna T. Bair (Mrs. Robert Bair) 1977-80
Estellene P. Walker,
"So Good and Necessary a Work": The Public Library in South Carolina, 1698-1980
(Columbia: South Carolina State Library, 1981), p. 50-51.
A note on the text