Although there were some excellent private, school and church libraries in Horry County prior to 1934, there had been no public library. It was then that a movement spearheaded by Mrs. H.L. Buck, a former president of the South Carolina Library Association (1929), gained support. As the result of her efforts and those of a small group of leading citizens, a public library was opened in Conway on March 4, 1938. Supported by private funds and a town appropriation of $25 per month, the library was housed on the second floor of the town hall. The nucleus of the book collection came from the private library of Dr. J.A. Norton and his brother, J.O. Norton.
Before the public library in Conway was opened, a WPA county-wide library project was initiated with the cooperation of the Horry County Board of Education. For the first time a bookmobile brought library service to the rural areas of the county. When WPA funds were withdrawn in 1942, the Board of Education assumed full responsibility for the service including the purchase of a book collection.
Convinced of the value of county-wide public library service, the Conway Library Committee continued to work vigorously for a county library and in so doing enlisted powerful political support. In 1944 the County Legislative Delegation appropriated the first $15,000 towards the construction of a library building. In 1946 the Delegation sponsored the legislation which established the Horry County Memorial Library Commission, appropriated $50,000 for a building and levied a one mill tax for support of the library. Later 20% of the county rebate of beer, wine and liquor taxes and one-half of the marriage license fees were assigned for the support of county library service.
At the time the library was established, Mary Parham, a qualified professional librarian, was appointed and during the period of building construction, she ordered the books, organized the book collection and established a public relations program essential for understanding the services the library would provide. The Horry County Memorial Library was the first public library building to be constructed in South Carolina after World War II. Beautifully designed, handsomely furnished and with an excellent book collection, it was dedicated on July 1,1949.
The county library immediately assumed full responsibility for rural library service, using as its first bookmobile the one transferred from the County Department of Education. Local groups in population centers throughout the county sponsored and supported branch libraries. The Loris branch was opened in 1949, Aynor in 1950 and Grand Strand (Crescent Beach later North Myrtle Beach Library) was opened in 1958. The most recent branch to be added to the system is Surfside, opened in 1978. Although the Chapin Memorial Library at Myrtle Beach is not a full participant in the county-wide public library system, it is closely affiliated with the system and enjoys cooperation and mutual support.
New branch buildings have been constructed at the rate of almost one a year since 1976 with funds already appropriated for the last, Grand Strand at North Myrtle Beach. A major expansion of the headquarters library in Conway is projected for 1983 with plans already in progress.
Due to the heavy use of the Horry County Library, it has been a challenge to maintain an adequate book collection to meet the demands of the public. The book collection has been strengthened by State Aid and by federal grants under the Library Services and Construction Act. Other grant funds have enabled the library to initiate a county-wide toll free telephone reference service, to expand reference capability through periodical subscriptions and acquisition of reference material, and to upgrade staff by providing opportunities for study and training. Grant funds have allowed the beginning of an outreach program to reach readers with unmet educational, informational and recreational needs. The outreach program, initially started through a LSCA grant, is now locally supported with grant funds being used primarily for materials. Outreach service is extended to isolated rural areas, nursing homes, day care facilities, feeding sites for senior citizens and for children, low income housing developments, and homebound individuals.
The library has become a focal point for a strong community interest in local history, a responsibility specifically mentioned in the library's enabling legislation. It has a strong local history collection and collaborates in the work of the Horry County Museum and the Horry County Historical Society.
J.C. Burroughs, Conway 1946-49
Mrs. Paul Sasser, Conway, 1949-50
Essie Derham, Green Sea, 1950-52
R.O. Brown, Wampee, 1952-54
R. Grant Singleton, Conway, 1954-57
Mrs. C.C. Cutts, Conway, 1957-59
Mrs. Carlyle Shelley, Conway, 1959-61
Eldridge Inman, Conway, 1961-63
Allen L. Ray, Conway, 1963-65
C. Bennett, Conway, 1965-72
Mrs. E. Windell McCrackin, Myrtle Beach,1972-75
W. BurroughsWoodward, Conway,1975-77
F. Delano Sanders, Conway, 1977-78
John M. Graves, Surfside, 1978
Mary Parham, 1948-50
Dorothy Smith, 1950-56
Kathleen Gilleland, 1956-58
Mrs. Catherine H. Lewis, 1958
Estellene P. Walker,
"So Good and Necessary a Work": The Public Library in South Carolina, 1698-1980
(Columbia: South Carolina State Library, 1981), p.32
A note on the text