The history of the Spartanburg County Public Library goes back to 1882 when Mrs. Helen Fayssoux Kennedy gave a lot to the city for a library building provided that the building would be constructed within five years and called the Kennedy Library. The building was completed and opened to the public October 17, 1885. Service was supported by subscription and personal memberships.
The Ladies Library Association organized in 1884 did much to arouse interest in the library enterprise, donated both books and money, and provided special services and programs for the library. As service expanded and the book collection grew, a larger public library building became essential. The Ladies Library Association sought financial aid from the Carnegie Foundation. In 1903 a Carnegie grant of $15,000 was made for the construction of the new building with the understanding that the city would purchase a suitable lot and guarantee not less than $1500 annually for the support of the library. A lot on Magnolia Street was secured for the site and the new Kennedy Free Library building was completed in November of 1905. This library building was one of the few built with Carnegie funds which did not include the Carnegie name. The building was dedicated and opened to the public on January 15, 1906. The Ladies Library Association continued their support of library service in Spartanburg and it was largely through their efforts that interest in library development was kept alive. From 1906 to 1946 library support depended upon the $1500 from the City of Spartanburg, a small county appropriation and membership fees. These were lean years and during the Depression there were times when there was no money for either books or salary.
By 1946, the Kennedy Free Library had far outgrown its quarters and its financial support. The Spartanburg County Foundation financed a survey of the library facilities of the county. The survey was conducted by Dr. W. Stanley Hoole who found library facilities and library support inadequate to provide the level of service required by a progressive modern community.
The Kennedy Library Board under the chairmanship of Dr. Henry N. Snyder, the Spartanburg County Foundation, the Junior Charity League and a committee of representative citizens joined in a campaign to establish a tax supported public library system. In 1947 the South Carolina General Assembly passed legislation creating the Spartanburg Public Library and in July of that year the new system began operation under the Spartanburg County Library Board. A one mill tax was levied on all taxable property in the county to support the library. The old Kennedy Library Board leased to the Spartanburg County Library Board the library building on Magnolia Street and the book collection for a nominal annual fee.
Miss Mary Baugham who had been the chief librarian since 1906 retired and Nancy Blair was appointed the first librarian of the new Spartanburg Public Library system. Under her direction the service was completely reorganized. The entire book collection was checked, staff employed and space in the library reorganized to provide both reference and children's services.
One of Dr. Hoole's recommendations was that a study be made of the county to determine the best and most economical way to provide library service in rural areas. The Junior Charity League undertook this project, purchased a bookmobile, bought books and employed a librarian to direct the demonstration of library service. From the beginning the demonstration was a success and in 1949 all demonstration assets were turned over to the Spartanburg Public Library, which then undertook to provide county-wide public library service.
Spartanburg's rapidly growing population, the growth in the use of the public library service and the bad physical condition of the old library building on Magnolia Street indicated the need for a larger headquarters building in a more accessible location. In the mid fifties a concentrated drive was started to arouse interest in this need and to find ways of financing a new and modern building. In 1956 the Junior Chamber of Commerce undertook this as their special project, one which won for them the national Jaycee's award. To finance the new library building, library bonds were sold, the old Kennedy Board sold the library lot on Magnolia Street and the proceeds went to the building fund. Donations were received from many private sources. A lot on South Pine Street was purchased for the new building, construction began in 1960 and the building was dedicated on May 13, 1961. A feature of the building was the regional museum of Spartanburg housed in the north wing of the library. In addition to the headquarters library building in Spartanburg, new branch buildings were constructed in Landrum in 1969 and in Woodruff in 1974. The Landrum building was funded by county and local funds and a $50,000 grant from the South Carolina State Library from LSCA funds under its administration. The Woodruff Library construction was funded by general revenue sharing (county), ordinary county revenue, general revenue sharing funds from the City of Woodruff, and a gift from the Timrod Library plus other donations.
Since 1947 when the Kennedy Library became a legally established library the Spartanburg Library system has received State Aid annually. Since 1956 the library system has participated in Library Services and Construction Act funds which have aided in increasing periodical holdings, improving the book collection, adding to the reference collection in main and branch libraries and adding new and needed equipment especially in the audio-visual area. In 1979 Spartanburg County Public Library became the first in the state and one of the first in the South to install an automated circulation system. The library is now engaged in an experimental program funded by the South Carolina State Library and involving cooperation with several other libraries in the Spartanburg area. Through membership in SOLINET each has access to the bibliographic database of OCLC for purposes of cataloging.
Aware of the need of improving reference service, the Spartanburg County Public Library joined with six other county libraries in its area to form an area reference resource program. Although the cooperating libraries did not continue the program after the withdrawal of grant funds, both reference and interlibrary loan service were substantially improved through cooperative planning and sharing of resources.
Harvey W. Johnson, Spartanburg, 1947-48
Broadus R. Littlejohn, Spartanburg, 1948-49
T.D. Stilwell, Inman, 1949-51
Mrs. Elford Morgan, Spartanburg, 1951-53
Charles N. Gignilliat, Jr., Spartanburg, 1953-54
H. Carlisle Bean, Spartanburg, 1954-61
Mrs. John C. Bell, Inman, 1961-62
Mrs. John D. Smith, Spartanburg,1962-
Nancy C. Blair, 1946-55
George R. Linder, 1956-64
Frances B. Reid, 1964-74
Dennis L. Bruce, 1975-
Estellene P. Walker,
"So Good and Necessary a Work": The Public Library in South Carolina, 1698-1980
(Columbia: South Carolina State Library, 1981), p. 46-48.
A note on the text
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