York County Library

Library history in York County goes back to June 13, 1884 when thirty-three interested citizens of Rock Hill met to organize the Rock Hill Library Association. Membership in the Association soon grew to one hundred and on July 15, 1884, the Association opened its first reading room. Captain D.D. Moore was the first librarian. Since the reading room was only a temporary arrangement, efforts continued to secure a permanent home for the library. Reverend James Spratt White agreed to rent the entire first floor of the new building he was erecting to the Association for the use of the library. The new quarters of the library were occupied in November of 1884 and the library continued to occupy the site until around 1900 when the library went out of existence.

In 1904 the Castalian Literary Club called a citizens' meeting to discuss a plan for a library. At the meeting it was proposed to approach the Carnegie Foundation for funds to construct a building. No further mention of a library occurred until four years later when the club women, having secured 120 volumes, placed them in a cabinet in the W.G. Reid Store on Main Street where they were circulated by volunteer librarians from among the club's members.

Due to the work of the Women's Club Union, in 1910 the Rock Hill Library Association was re-established. The new Association received as a gift from Mayor John T. Roddey a suitable site for a library building and again tried to secure a grant from the Carnegie Foundation for library construction. For some reason the grant was never made and the building site was returned to Mr. Roddey.

The library moved frequently and suffered many vicissitudes. On three different occasions in 1915, 1916 and again in 1917 the library collection was almost completely destroyed by fire.

In 1923 a referendum on tax support for the library, authorized in 1917, was held and a one mill tax on the Rock Hill School District voted for the support of the library. In 1934 this tax was increased to two mills. At long last the library had become a recognized part of the Rock Hill community with government support to ensure its maintenance and continuity.

A suitable building for the library continued to be a problem and in 1924 a lot on Oakland Avenue was purchased as the site for a future library building. In 1930 the old Post Office building was purchased for the sum of $100. In July 1931 the building was moved to the library's lot and was remodeled and redecorated. The handsome building was dedicated on February 24, 1932. Miss Louise N. McMaster, a fully qualified professional librarian, was in charge of the library.

In 1939 Nan Weller, later Mrs. Paul Carson, was appointed director of the Rock Hill Library. Under her guidance the library expanded its services in many directions. An unusually strong collection in South Carolina history and genealogy was developed. An innovative program for children and young people attracted many juvenile readers. As the service grew it became apparent that additional space was needed to house the expanding program. In 1956 funds were appropriated for an addition to the library building and for its general redecoration and renovation. The new construction added a children's room, workroom, large reference area, record listening room, and a South Carolina Room. The building was one of the first libraries in the state to be completely air conditioned.

Rock Hill was not the only community in the county which was interested in and developed public library service. Library service in the Town of York began in the early 1900's and later developed into the York Township Public Library created in 1936 and legally established in 1944. The library was housed in the War Memorial Building and Mrs. Helen Ervin was its long-time librarian.

Clover's Public Library dates from 1944 when legislation was introduced establishing a library in the King's Mountain Township and appropriating $10,000 for the construction of a building. The building was not constructed until 1949, and when completed was occupied by the York County Rural Library, which provided a collection of some 10,000 volumes and the services of its librarian, Mrs. Paul Blanks. The new building was dedicated May 12, 1950. Library Service in Fort Mill had a late beginning. Since establishment in 1964 the library has been a popular community service and has outgrown every location until the present handsome library building was completed in 1972.

A "traveling" library was initiated in York County in 1937 with WPA funds and contributions from members of County Home Demonstration Clubs and appropriations from the County Board of Education and the Legislative Delegation. The WPA furnished staff, part of the book collection, and aided in the purchase of a bookmobile. In 1938 the county traveling library was officially created by act of the legislature. Until 1950 it operated from the Rock Hill City Hall, when it moved into the new Clover Public Library building, which from that time served as its headquarters.

Since the 1950's there had been some discussion in Rock Hill and York County of the advantages of consolidating all library service in the county into a single library system. The advantages of the unified system were manifest in avoiding expensive duplication of staff, books and equipment and in the sharing of resources which would improve the availability of books and materials to all library patrons. In April of 1966 the library boards in York County began a serious discussion of the issue of consolidation. On May 4, 1966 all library boards in the country approved the legislation which was required to bring about the consolidation of the various libraries in the county into a single system. The bill was enacted and on August 9, 1966 the new county library board met for the first time. Norma Lightsey was elected the first librarian of the new system. The first step taken by the new board was to undertake a three-year demonstration of county library service in cooperation with the State Library Board.

The new York County Library system was immediately successful in improving library service throughout the county. Under the direction of the board and librarian grants were secured from the South Carolina State Library to aid in the construction of branch library buildings in York Township and in Fort Mill. A modern walk-in type bookmobile improved library service throughout the rural areas of the county.

In compliance with the new Home Rule legislation the York County Council passes an ordinance on April 16, 1979 which re-established the York County Library system.

In 1974 the Friends of the York County Library was organized with the special mission of securing an adequate headquarters library building for the York County Library system. In 1979 a suitable site for the building was secured and in 1980 the plans for the building are being completed with construction predicted to begin in 1981.

The York Country Library, situated in a growing area, faces an interesting future. Its new headquarters library building will make possible expansion and improvements in service and the development of new programs to meet the changing needs of a rapidly expanding area.

Board Chairman
R.E. Barron, Jr., Rock Hill, 1965-68
C.S. Little, Jr.,Fort Mill, 1968-69
Robert M. Ward, Rock Hill, 1969-72
George L. McGill, Rock Hill, 1972-73
William M. Mauldin, Jr., 1973-76
Wallace D. Vaughn, Jr., Fort Mill, 1976-78
Gary Lawrence, Clover, 1978-

Norma Lightsey, 1965-70.
Ann Harper, (Acting), 1970-72
Joseph Garcia, 1972-77
David A. Lyon, IV, 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.

A note on the text

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