Why St. Helena library — prettiest in SC — might also be the coolest

Article Published in Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet

By Stephen Fastenau, Beaufort Gazette

Just out the back door of South Carolina’s prettiest library, floor-to-ceiling windows lead to a covered patio with an amphitheater feel.

People often come to the quiet space at the St. Helena library just to eat lunch. But it will also host a music festival — bands playing just outside the doors of a place where whispers are thought to be the only acceptable form of communication.

But this new library isn’t a throwback. The $11 million building opened not only with a sleek look recognized with multiple design awards, but also with some pretty darn cool technology to serve a rural area in need of its resources.

And reflected in its designs are nods to the area’s Gullah culture and Sea Island history. The library was built on land previously owned by Penn Center and is only a four-minute walk from the campus.

One woman cried when she first walked into the building, branch manager Maria Benac said. People drive from as far away as Walterboro to use the library.

Still, library staff work to spread the word about their newest facility.

“We really have to make people want to come here,” Beaufort County libraries director Ray McBride said. “We have everything we need — all of the resources — we just have to make people come here. “You can’t walk here. You have to come here for a reason.”

There are plenty of draws.

The building is pretty, yes, but here is a look at why the library is also among the coolest in the state.