The history of library service in Newberry County goes back to the early 1800's. The Newberry Library Society was organized prior to 1804 and was incorporated by the legislature in 1807 with the original incorporation extended for an additional fourteen years in 1820. The books in this library were selected and purchased in Boston and were housed in the Clerk of Court's Office.
It was a century later before an organized effort was made to provide public library service to the people of Newberry. The Women's Club of Newberry, organized in 1901, called a meeting in 1904 for the purpose of organizing a library. This meeting resulted in the formation of the Newberry Library Association. The Association opened its first library in 1904 with 125 donated books. The library was first located in a room of the Mower Store but soon outgrew that location and moved into two rooms on the ground floor of the old Newberry Courthouse which then served as the Community Hall.
The next major development in the library program for the area came in the mid-1930's. The County Council of Farm Women under the leadership of Miss Ethel L. Counts, Home Demonstration Agent, became interested in the establishment of county-wide rural library service. All Home Demonstration Clubs in the county participated in the campaign. The leaders of the library project were able to get a referendum to vote a tax to support a country traveling library on November 3, 1936. The referendum failed by only 75 votes, but this did not deter the library promoters.
With the help of the WPA a major library project was initiated which included both the city and county of Newberry. The WPA furnished personnel, supplies, aided in the purchase of a bookmobile, and paid its cost of operation. County service was housed in the alcove of the city library. The bookmobile made its first trip into the county on February 10, 1938. When the WPA project ended, the Newberry County Delegation appropriated funds for the continuation of the library program and continued to do so until this responsibility was taken over by the County Board of Commissioners, and later by the County Council.
On November 1, 1941 the Newberry County Library and the Newberry City Library were merged into a single system serving both city and county.
In 1947 the South Carolina State Library Board proposed that the Newberry County Library consider joining with its neighbor Saluda County in the formation of a regional library to serve both counties. After conferences with community leaders in both counties the new system was established on July 1, 1948. Mrs. Elenore Driscoll, an experienced professional librarian, was appointed regional librarian.
The regional library was housed in the Newberry Library County Library quarters in the old courthouse. The Saluda County headquarters library continued to be housed in the Town Hall until 1963 when a small building on Main Street was rented, renovated and furnished. In 1975 a handsome headquarters building for Saluda was dedicated. The headquarters in the old courthouse in Newberry was soon outgrown and it was clear that further progress of the library program required adequate space for books, staff and library patrons. At this time the Newberry Board was able to secure the old post office building at the corner of College and Friend Streets in Newberry for use as a headquarters building. With local funds and a $75,000 LSCA grant from the South Carolina State Library, the building was completely renovated, redecorated and furnished. Dedication services were on October 20, 1968. At the dedication a special tribute was paid to Mrs. R.D. Wright as the person most instrumental in the establishment and maintenance of library service in Newberry. Mrs. Wright was for thirty-five years president and treasurer of the Library Association organized by the Women's Club of Newberry to supervise the Newberry County Library which the club had founded in 1904.
The Whitmire Library is a branch of the Newberry-Saluda Regional Library and was built as a memorial to the veterans of World Wars I and II. The building was dedicated in 1950. The library was completely renovated in 1976.
State and Federal aid have been of great significance in the development of library service since the 1940's. Books, materials, equipment and special programs have been made possible through State Aid and grants under the Library Services and Construction Act program administered by the South Carolina State Library. Through combining two federal grants, the library was able to employ a librarian to develop an outreach and children's program. The library has made steady progress in raising reading standards in the area. Its book collection is excellent and well used. The addition of audio-visual materials provides a much appreciate service for library patrons.
Board Chairman (Regional Library)
R.C. Lake, Whitmire, 1947-50
Mrs. C.A. Dufford, Newberry, 1950-52
J.W. Hipp, Whitmire, 1952-62
Rev. G.L. Hill, Little Mt., 1962-65
Keith Prucell, Newberry, 1965-68
Mrs. B.A. Fretwell, Newberry, 1968-71
Earl Bergen, Newberry, 1971-
Mrs. Elenore Driscoll, 1948-49
Mrs. Marjorie Chandler Fretwell, 1949-50
Mrs. Mary King Mitchell, 1950-51
Mrs. Joella S. Neel, 1951-60
Mrs. Lois J. Cromer, 1960-62
Mrs. Lurlyne K. Shinn, 1962-64
Mary Catherine Tanner, 1964-70
Verna S. Kohn (Mrs. Martyn Cavanaugh), 1970-72
Mrs. Lurlyne K. Shinn (Acting) 1972
Catherine Slaughter, 1973-80
Estellene P. Walker,
"So Good and Necessary a Work": The Public Library in South Carolina, 1698-1980
(Columbia: South Carolina State Library, 1981), pp. 41-42.
A note on the text
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