Located in the most western section of South Carolina and one of the last counties to be settled, Oconee County did not establish county-wide library service until 1948. In the 1930's a referendum for tax-supported library service was defeated due more to the current depression than to any lack of realization on the part of the people of the county that library services were needed. In 1946 another citizens' movement in support of library establishment was more successful and the Oconee County Library was legally established on May 3, 1948. The first library board was appointed with the Superintendent of Education and three outstanding Oconee County women serving on it. The continuing progress of library service in the county was largely due to this board and to the untiring efforts of an early chairman, Mrs. Lawrence (Sarah Mills) Norton.
The first library was opened on October 18, 1948 in the old courthouse annex in the county seat at Walhalla. At the same time the headquarters library was opened in Walhalla, a bookmobile took to the road to serve rural Oconee County. Community stops were made throughout the entire rural area, and books were made available by the bookmobile to the county schools until the State required the schools to maintain libraries of their own. The Seneca Library became a member of the new county library system and for many years was the only county branch. Within ten years of establishment the Oconee County Library had a well-developed county library system providing a good level of service to the entire county. The Chicopee Manufacturing Corporation donated its own gymnasium and recreation center to the library for a headquarters building. The building, cleverly renovated and redecorated, provided a commodious and attractive center for library service in the county for many years. Branch libraries were established in Westminster in 1950 and in Salem in 1952. From 1963 to 1967 a branch library was provided the citizens of the community of Clemson, located on the county line between Pickens and Oconee counties.
In 1967 the Oconee County Library Board and a committee of citizens from the town of Seneca secured local funds, a grant of $50,000 from the South Carolina State Library Board from LSCA funds under its administration, and a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the construction of a library building to house the Seneca Branch. The building was completed and dedicated in October of 1968.
The Oconee County Library successfully carried out a major construction program during 1478-79. A new headquarters building was constructed in Walhalla, named in honor of Mrs. Sarah Mills Norton and dedicated on October 21, 1979. A new branch library building for Westminster was opened on September 7, 1979 and another branch to serve Salem will be completed in 1981. To have two new library buildings within one year is a major accomplishment.
The Oconee County Library was one of seven counties in the Appalachian area of the state to join together in a cooperative program to improve the reference service in the area. The Area Reference Resource Center was headquartered in Greenville. Through this program the resources of the participating libraries were shared, staff members enjoyed special opportunities for training and reference work, and both reference service and interlibrary loan service were considerably improved.
In 1962 the Oconee County Library was the winner of a $1,000 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award.
One of the few county libraries in the state to have a publications program, the Oconee County Library published the "German Colony Protocol." This book is a translation of the German manuscript ledger that deals with the settlement of Walhalla covering transactions from 1848 to 1888. The maps in the publication were prepared from original sources. The library owns a complete xerox and/or photographic collection of all known maps since 1730 relative to the Oconee County area.
Since its establishment, the Oconee County Library's art programs and special projects for children have been outstanding. With an innovative and creative program, the library has been able to reach into all areas of the county and to deliver library service wherever it was needed.
W.L. Jones, Walhalla, 1948-50
T. V-Derrick, Walhalla, 1950-62
Mrs. Sarah M. Norton, Walhalla, 1962-64
Mrs. W.R. Ballenger, Seneca, 1964-68; 1971-72
Mrs. Z.T. Abbott, Westminster, 1968-71
Mrs. Lamar Bailes, Jr., Walhalla, 1972-74
Mrs. Jim Spearman, Westminster, 1974-78
Mrs. Roddey A. Stoudemire, Walhalla, 1978
Mary Elizabeth Bodie, 1948-49
Mrs. Elizabeth B. Greene, 1949-60
Louise T. Stem, 1960-62
Stewart H. Butten, 1962-63
Mrs. Nellie H. Keys, 1963-64
Louise Marcum, 1964-80
Edward A. Kilroy, 1980
Estellene P. Walker,
"So Good and Necessary a Work": The Public Library in South Carolina, 1698-1980
(Columbia: South Carolina State Library, 1981), pp.42-43.
A note on the text
Read more about: