JFK: Good libraries are essential

When I was tidying up the vertical files for relocation, I was reminded of a letter from the President of the United States in 1963 in the Library archives.

President Kennedy wrote: "Good libraries are as essential to an educated and informed people as the school system itself. The library is not only the custodian of our cultural heritage but the key to progress and the advancement of knowledge."

The occasion? He wrote to congratulate the nascent Beaufort County Library on its award of the Dorothy Canfield Fisher award as "Best Small Library" in the United States.

Why was Beaufort County Library chosen as the "Best Small Library" in 1963? It had a great deal to do with how forward looking the County, the Library Board of Trustees, and the community was for a Southern town. A formerly all white library, Beaufort Township Library, and a formerly all black community library, the Laura M. Towne Library on the Penn Community Center campus with some County support, merged to create the Beaufort County Library -- and the Towne Library contributed a bookmobile. There weren't any other public libraries in Beaufort County at the time or ways to get access to reading materials or assistance in using reference materials. Hilton Head and Bluffton had very small permanent populations in them and no access to community library services.

According to News for Public Librarians: 2nd series, no. 6 dated December 1962 issued by the South Carolina State Library Board:

"Beaufort was the winner because it met all the criteria and because the newly appointed county library board has made every effort to organize the library on sound economical principles and according to library standards and has recognized the importance and taken the necessary steps to obtain the services of a trained librarian to direct the library."

Fast forward to the present day and ask yourselves these questions:

Q: Does the Beaufort County Library serve its community well?

Q: Does Beaufort County Library maintain its operation according to sound economical principles?

Q: Does Beaufort County Library maintain current library standards?

Whether your answer is "yes" or "no," or even something in between, our Library Board of Trustees, Administrators, and County Council need to know what you think in order that Beaufort County Library can better meet your needs for library services.

About the Author

Grace Cordial has been responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Beaufort District Collection at the Beaufort County Library since 1999.  The Beaufort District Collection exists to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history, culture, and environment of our part of the South Carolina lowcountry.  Besides the research room, Cordial manages the “Virtual BDC:” the BDC web pages, the Online Obituary Index, two digital collections, a new BDC.BCL Facebook page, and the Connections blog.  
Among her duties is to coordinate or present programs about local history, Gullah culture, and our coastal environment, including occasional instructional sessions about how to perform historical and/or genealogical research.