Pickens County Library

From a library with no permanent home and a small collection of books, the Pickens County Library has grown into a 68,000 volume library with four branches and bookmobile service to all areas of the county.

As early as 1929, the Easley Women's Club began efforts to provide a city library in Easley. With the assistance of three other clubs--the Easley Garden Club, the Child Study Club and the Civic League--this club sponsored and maintained Easley's first public library. At first it was only a two-bookcase library housed in a store on Main Street but this small library was the nucleus of the present Pickens County Library.

In 1935 with the encouragement of the FERA office in Pickens, the Pickens County Library Association was organized. The beginning county library was supported by funds from the FERA and membership fees from residents of the community. A membership in the Association was $1.00 but these were "Depression" years and produce such as eggs, chickens, beef, and fruit was accepted for the membership fee in lieu of cash. Library headquarters was established in Easley and an old truck purchased for $50.00 to begin rural library service.

When the FERA became part of WPA, a budget of $10,000 for the yearly operation of the library was set up and the county contributed $1,000 of this amount. For the first thirteen years of its existence, the library moved its headquarters from pillar to post. In September of 1948, however, it moved into the Easley Public Library building which had been especially designed and constructed to house service in Easley and Pickens County.

For many years Mrs. O.K. Higgins and Mrs. Bernice G. Hagood operated the library single-handed. Mrs. Higgins was the first bookmobile librarian and served in that capacity until 1969. Mrs. Hagaood served as county librarian and operated the main library in Easley. In 1957 Margaret Wright was employed as the library's first professional librarian. Under her administration the library was completely reorganized and the book collection cataloged. With a professional librarian to plan and carry on a prgressive library program, the Pickens County Library was able to qualify for LSCA grants administered by the South Carolina State Library. With these grants for special programs and increased local support and State Aid, county library service flourished. New branches were opened and bookmobile routes extended. Upon Miss Wright's retirement, Mary Aiken, a Pickens County native, was appointed head librarian and under her dynamic leadership service rapidly expanded. The headquarters building was soon out grown and it became the major objective of the Pickens county Library Board to secure the funds to enlarge, renovate and redecorate the Easley Library building to adequately house county library service. In 1968 the funds for a program of renovation and an addition to the library building were secured from Pickens County, local contributions, a $75,000 grant from the South Carolina State Library, and a large grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

On March 8, 1970 the Pickens County Library celebrated its thirty-fifth birthday with the opening of a distinguished new library building.

In the years since 1970 major emphasis has been put on improving branch library service. The Town of Pickens constructed a handsome library building to house the branch library in that community and other branches were greatly improved through additions to the book collections and through participation in special programs and audio-visual services. An outstanding program of publicity and public relations was planned and carried out by Jim Swan who succeeded Miss Aiken. This program won national recognition because of its exceptional success in publicizing new services of the library and in introducing county citizens to these services. In 1979 the Pickens County Library secured a grant from the South Carolina Committee for the Humanities to compile and exhibit a pictoral history of the county.

In one of the most rapidly growing areas in South Carolina, with new industry coming into the county and established industries being expanded, the Pickens County Library has an exciting future. The library's willingness to experiment and cooperate with other libraries in the area predicts a successful future in meeting the needs of the county and the area.

Board Chairmen
Mrs. W.M. Scott, Easley, 1946-48
Mrs. Remsen Bauknight, Pickens, 1948-50
Mrs. Agatha M. Hill, Easley, 1950-51
Rev. T.M. Bagnal, Easley, 1951-52
Aleen Wyatt, Easley, 1952-54
Mrs. J.R. Jacobs, Esley, 1954-56
Mrs. Ora H. Kirkley, Easley, 1956-58
Harold Armistead, Easley, 1958-61
J.E. Ponder, Pickens, 1961-62
W.R. Craig, Pickens, 1962-62
Thad W. Herbert, Easley, 1964-67
Thomas P. Earle, Central, 1967-69
Dr. Henry Lefort, Clemson, 1969-

Mrs. O.K. Higgins, 1944-56
Margaret Wright, 1956-60
Mary Aiken, 1969-70
James Swan, 1970-77
Mrs. Nancy J. Bettencourt, 1977-

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.

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