There has been an interest in gathering and publishing the history of public libraries in South Carolina since 1946. In 1947, with the blessing of the South Carolina Library Association, the South Carolina State Library Board began to gather the histories of the then-existing public libraries. These were carefully filed and, over the years, additional material added as it became available.
In the 1970's the South Carolina Library Association made a concerted effort to have a volume on South Carolina library history researched, written and published. Funds for the project were on hand and after careful deliberation it was decided to ask the Southern Studies Program at the University of South Carolina to carry out the project. The director of the Southern Studies Program was enthusiastic over the idea and suggested that Dr. Isaac Copeland, who had recently retired from the library at the University of North Carolina, be chosen as editor of the volume. Dr. Copeland was in South Carolina several times to discuss the history with the Executive Board of the South Carolina Library Association and the director of the Southern Studies Program. For some reason the project never got underway and after ten years of procrastination died a natural death. Under these circumstances the South Carolina State Library Board decided to have a history of the public library program in the state written and published.
In 1979 the State Library Board celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. The time seemed appropriate to undertake the history project since most of the public library systems in the state had been established since 1943 and many of the people who had been active in their establishment would be able to help in compiling the history of the systems. Estellene Walker, who had been Executive Secretary of the State Library Board since 1946 and State Librarian since 1969, was retiring. With her knowledge of the development of the public library program in the state and the leisure she would now have to devote to the history, the State Library Board decided to retain her as a consultant to carry out the project.
In the fall of 1979 the public libraries in the state were requested to gather and compile materials pertinent to their history and to compile a history which would be submitted to the State Library for publication. The public libraries were most cooperative and with few exceptions provided the history of public library service in their counties. Where the history was not developed locally, one was compiled from material on file at the State Library.
A file on the public library history of each county has been completed and will be turned over to the Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina where it will be available to scholars.
Estellene P. Walker,
"So Good and Necessary a Work": The Public Library in South Carolina, 1698-1980
(Columbia: South Carolina State Library, 1981), p. v.
A note on the text