"The Information Center" is the appropriate name for the Richland County Public Library, which is a source of information and continuing education for all county residents.
Although there were several fine private libraries in Columbia and Richland County, the first step towards general library service was made prior to 1865 when the Honorable William C. Preston gave his library to the reading room of the Columbia Athenaeum. In 1896 another move to establish a general library was made. This movement was known as the "Union for Practical Progress." Later in the same year, the Columbia Library Association was formed. The first president of the Association was Dr. James H. Woodrow whose nephew, Woodrow, became President of the United States. The first librarian was Mrs. Eugene (Martha) Cramer. The library was located on the corner of Main and Gervais Streets. At the same location was another library called the Lend-A-Hand Library but this was burned in 1899.
In 1905 the library was renamed in honor of the South Carolina poet, Henry Timrod, and from that time was known as the Timrod Library.
In 1922 Miss Annie Reese Locke became librarian. The library was supported by small subscription fees and an appropriation made by the City which supplemented rent and salaries.
Under Miss Locke's direction, the library grew. She made a special effort to reach the children and young people in the community. As a special service she developed a genealogy collection.
Sometime after 1923 the library was rechristened the Columbia Public Library. At this time the home of the library was in the Sylvan Building on the corner of Hampton and Main Streets.
In 1926 Lucy Hampton (Mrs. Hagood Bostick) was employed as the Assistant Librarian and in 1928, upon the retirement of Miss Locke, she became Chief Librarian. The following year, in 1929, the library moved to the corner of Washington and Sumter Streets which is still its location. The library occupied the former residence of the first president of the Columbia Library Association, Dr. James Woodrow.
In 1929 the library received its first financial aid from Richland County. This financial aid was the result of an interesting situation. The State Highway Department was building a new Broad River bridge to replace an old wooden, covered bridge owned by the County. Shortly after construction began on the new bridge, the old bridge burned. The County had had insurance on the bridge, and collecting the insurance money, it was put in the bank which promptly failed. There seemed little hope that any of the money would be recovered but a promise was secured from the County Delegation that whatever money was recovered would be given to the library when the bank was liquidated. $40,000 was realized from this source. This provided the library with a book fund which aided it in developing a well-selected and balanced book collection.
From 1930 to 1935 the library received an annual grant from the Rosenwald Foundation. The grant was contingent upon an equal appropriation of local funds and these funds were secured through county appropriations. With Rosenwald aid it was possible to extend library service into rural Richland County and to reach a portion of the population which had up to this time been unserved. The Phyllis Wheatly Branch (later the Waverly Branch) was established and small book collections placed in Five Points, Gonzales Gardens, Eastover, and Blythewood.
In 1934 the name of the library became the Richland County Public Library. The library was legally established as a county institution supported with a one mill tax. Since 1930 the library had grown tremendously and had completely outgrown its quarters in the old Woodrow home. In 1941 the County was authorized to sell bonds to build a new library but World War II intervened and the plans were set aside until the close of the war. In 1950, the work on the present building began and the new building was completed and opened to the public in 1952.
In 1968 Mrs. Hagood Bostick died as the result of a tragic automobile accident. Mrs. Bostick had made an immeasurable contribution towards the development of library service in Richland County and throughout the State of South Carolina. Her belief in the value of libraries and the wise use of books was reflected in the library service in the entire state.
In 1969 Mrs. Anna Davis King was appointed Director. During her ten years as Director, she developed and strengthened the services of the library. New branches were opened on Devine Street, Northway Plaza and Landmark Square, A special reading room was provided at Latimer Manor as a part of a project partially funded from federal funds administered by the South Carolina State Library.
In 1976 the Richland County Public Library was the first public library in South Carolina to join the Southeastern Library Network. The library also subscribes to the New York Times Information Bank which gives patrons quick access to a storehouse of information on thousands of subjects. Another valuable service from the library is a federally funded Occupational Information System with a computer terminal which enables patrons to quickly find information on all types of careers, the availability of training and the location of jobs.
Upon Mrs. King's retirement, in June 1979, Mr. C. David Warren was appointed Director of the system.
For three quarters of a century the Richland County Library has been a source of information and continuing education for the citizens of the county. With the predicted growth of metropolitan Columbia expected to reach 406,000 in the 1980's, the library is preparing all its resources to meet the growing demands on its services.
Clark Brockman, Columbia, 1946-56
James F. Dreher, Columbia, 1956-67
James H. Ellison, Columbia, 1967-68
Dr. Daniel W. Hollis, Columbia, 1968-69
Julian Hennig, Jr., Columbia, 1969-72
Julian J. Nexsen, Columbia, 1972-74
Mrs, Jean G. Bissell, Columbia, 1974-77
Owen G. Shell, Columbia, 1977-80
Dr. John R. Stevenson, Columbia, 1980
Mrs. Hagood Bostick, 1944-67
Mrs. George King, 1967-79
David Warren, 1979
Estellene P. Walker,
"So Good and Necessary a Work": The Public Library in South Carolina, 1698-1980
(Columbia: South Carolina State Library, 1981), pp.45-46.
A note on the text
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