Libraries have been an important part of life to Camden from its first establishment. In 1805 Abraham Blanding, a native of New England who had come to Camden to complete his studies of law, incorporated the "Camden Library Society." The Society was housed in the old Market opposite the old Courthouse on South Broad Street. In subsequent years it moved to many different locations. Only the most cultivated gentlemen of the community were members of the Library Society. There is no record of a woman having entered the sacred portals of the library or holding a membership in that august society.
In 1820, $12,000 was spent to buy the library of Chancellor De Saussure. By 1851 the collection of books had suffered so many losses and were so badly damaged by careless handling that only 742 volumes remained and these were valued at only $600. Under these discouraging circumstances, the "Camden Library Society" came to an end.
For the next fifty years no library activity is recorded. In 1900 a new organization was formed, the "Camden Library Association." The library depended on subscriptions to maintain its services but did not survive a fire in 1912 which completely destroyed building and books.
In 1915, largely through the efforts of Mrs. E.C. Von Truckow, the Carnegie Foundation gave $5,000 for the construction of a public library building with the town of Camden guaranteeing annual support. The building was erected on Monument Square and, for the first time, women occupied positions as trustees.
In 1936 a WPA library project was established through the cooperation of the Kershaw County Board of Education and the Kershaw County Legislative Delegation. From this project grew the present Kershaw County Public Library. The first headquarters building was a small clapboard house which was moved from its original location to the corner of Church Street beside the old jail house. An important part of the WPA library project was the county bookmobile, which served the entire rural area making stops in lonely, isolated and remote communities.
When WPA funds were withdrawn, the first Kershaw County Library Commission was created. Between 1947 and 1951 the Camden Public Library and the Kershaw County Library operated as a single system but the merger was discontinued.
The idea of a single library system to serve the entire county had taken firm root in the minds of many of the leaders in Kershaw County. In the 1960's a movement headed by Henry Savage and Richard Lloyd was started to merge the city and county libraries but was defeated by a referendum in 1963. In May 1970 the county library board requested a grand jury study on the question of "obtaining adequate and proper facilities with safe, efficient, and economical operation." The grand jury strongly recommended that a single unified county library system be established and adequately housed to meet the current and future needs of the citizens of Kershaw County. On August 18, 1970, the Camden City Council and the Kershaw County Council adopted a merger resolution during a joint meeting. The new Kershaw County Library was established by act of the legislature.
A site for a new county library building was selected on Broad Street in downtown Camden. The architect, Henry D. Boykin, planned the building to fit in perfectly with the colonial buildings in the neighborhood. The building was completed in 1973 and dedicated on September 9, 1973.
In addition to the headquarters library and county-wide bookmobile service, the Kershaw County Library has a flourishing branch in Bethune. The Bethune Library grew from an organization established in 1932. A handsome new library building was constructed and dedicated on November 12,1974.
Over the years many dedicated people have given time and thought to establishing and maintaining a library to serve all Kershaw County citizens. The present excellent library system is providing to the entire county a good level of service which is heavily used by individuals, organizations and business and industry.
John W. Hash, Camden, 1968
Mrs. Marie S. Jackson, 1970-71
Mrs. Susan M. Ewald, 1971-72
Alan F. Rost, 1972-77
Mrs. Penny E. Albright, 1977
Estellene P. Walker,
"So Good and Necessary a Work": The Public Library in South Carolina, 1698-1980
(Columbia: South Carolina State Library, 1981), pp.33-34.
A note on the text
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