Our nearest library, located in Greenville County, South Carolina, began in 1921 (a bit before my time) with 500 books to loan. This was the first BookMobile operated in the upstate of South Carolina. The town of Greenville, SC, grew quickly with the introduction of textile manufacturing to our area. Villages sprang up around each textile plant, then called a mill, and these villages were called "mill villages." The Bookmobile served the "mill villages" and provided many a housewife with her first chance to borrow a library book.
In 2009 there were close to 277,000 registered borrowers at the Greenville County Library System and annually there are almost 2 million walk-in visits among this main building and the ten branches.
This is just a small part of the of the 123,000 libraries spread throughout the United States
When I began first grade, no kindergarten back then, I walked into my first library with my class on our first "library day". I must have had a wondrous look of awe on my face to see so many books in one place. This was the first library I had ever seen. Miss Lawrence, young, very pretty, finishing college, and fulfilling her Librarian internship, spoke to my teacher. Then she came straight to me, took me from the class, (I thought I was in trouble) and said, "Let me show you around."
I thought I died and went to Heaven. When she found out I could already read above a fourth grade level, she showed me books and more books. Dick and Jane, Spot and Puff, just couldn't hold my interest after the books I saw. During the next weeks, every spare minute I could beg, borrow, or slip away was spent in that library. I almost missed my bus on more than one occasion.
Miss Lawrence always welcomed me. She kept me out of trouble several times by telling my teacher she requested my help when she actually didn't. But she seemed to understand my love affair with books. She arranged for me to spend my reading class with her, in the Library. She always had a new challenge, a new topic for me to read. During the next three years, I read almost every book in our school library. I hated summers because my access to my beloved books was cut off for three months.
Then in fourth grade, we went on a field trip to the public library. I never realized we had such a thing for poor people. I thought they were only for wealthy people. Here were even more books, and I could borrow them for free. Whenever any of my extended family who lived nearby were going to town, I begged a ride and a quick stop at the public library. I read fiction and non-fiction. I read biographies, histories, everything I could find about horses and dogs, and even studied plants and Earth sciences. I read about Orville and Wilbur Wright and about the Hindenburg. I read all of the books by Walter Farley, Marguerite Henry, and Jack London before moving on to O'Henry, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Ralph Moody. The Head Librarian at the Anderson County Library (in the county where we lived then) began to put aside new books and have them for me when I would run through to drop off my returns and hurriedly search for more while my ride waited.
In sixth grade, I happened upon my first romance. Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow had just reached my school librarian's hands. Mrs. Cartee told me to let her finish it and if it was suitable she would loan it to me. She loan me her personal copy and it started me on a lifelong love of romance. I quickly moved to Phyllis Whitney and on and on. Thank God for Librarians!
Many of you at this point are probably saying, "Well, Rebecca, this is all nice and well and good, but what does it have to do with your topic of supporting the local library?"
I wanted everyone to understand how my love of libraries came about. I want my granddaughters and their children and on down our lineage to be able to visit a local library and fall in love with books the way I did. I want them to find supportive Librarians who truly love books and care enough to help young people learn to enjoy them too. Here in the States, our county tax dollars help fund our local libraries and I try never to utter one word of complaint about the portion of those funds which go to either the schools or the public libraries. But we need to do more.
We can donate used books to our Library system. We can buy books at their fund raisers and book fairs. Our local Libraries have groups called, "Friends of the Library," who donate time, money, and supplies so that more of the County funds can go to buying actual books and computers. I'm sure your local Library System has some sort of program you can help with if you ask. Please show our Libraries and our Librarians how important they are and how much we need them by offering your support if only by using the services. Sadly, the numbers of patrons and the volume of services used will often determine whether a library (especially a small branch) will receive the funds to remain open and recently those have dwindled in many areas.
The very best way to support your local library and keep it going is to use it.
Rebecca J. Vickery