The Sumter County Library turns 100 years old Monday, and its friends - the Friends of the Library - are celebrating the occasion by hosting a party from 6 to 8 p.m. that evening. Friends president Sue Griffin said the public is invited to attend the gala event.
Griffin said the Friends will begin the evening by serving refreshments to guests, who will be invited to visit several displays on the library's history, as well as pictures of the individuals responsible for the construction and the Dec. 4, 1917, opening of the original Carnegie Public Library at 219 N. Washington St., where the building still stands. Guests will also be invited to take a self-guided tour of the current library building.
Library director Robert Harden, Griffin and Frank Shuler, chairman of the Sumter County Library Board, will welcome guests and introduce current board members. A representative of Mayor Joseph T. McElveen's office will make an official proclamation.
Keynote speaker for the evening will be Katherine Richardson, director of the Camden Archives and Museum and former director of the Sumter County Museum, who had the Carnegie placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. The official registration form describes the Carnegie as a "two-story, flat-roofed Beaux Arts building built with terra cotta tile bricks and the exterior covered with brick veneer."
Richardson said her talk will focus on the establishment of the library, whose construction was begun after several years' correspondence between Dr. S.H. Edmunds, then superintendent of Sumter schools, and Andrew Carnegie, who gave his huge steel fortune for libraries around the country. He funded 1,689 in all.
"I'll base my talk on research done by Ruth Edens," she said, "and talk about why Carnegie funded all those libraries." According to a memo discovered after his death, Carnegie believed that after a wealthy man had provided for his family, it was his duty to dispose of his "surplus wealth" in the way that would "best aid in the well-being and happiness of others."
Descendants of the library's original board members - Edmunds, Edith DeLorme (also the first librarian), Francis M. Moise, Hubert G. Osteen, Mrs. H.C. Haynsworth, Mark Reynolds, Mrs. I.A. Ryttenberg and treasurer R.B. Jennings - will be present at the event and will be introduced by Nancy Wilson of the Friends of the Library board of directors.
Also present will be Faith Line, library director for 21 years, from the retirement of Chapman J. "Jimmy" Milling in 1985 until 2007. The library was on Harvin Street when she started. She recalled, "During my time we moved the children's area to the first floor, added computers for patrons, put in an elevator in the Main Library, added two branches - one in the South Sumter Resource Center and the one on Wesmark - a new bookmobile and then in 2007 a new Main Library."
Both Line and Harden, who started at the library in 1980 as a general assistant, had high praise for the Friends of the Library, the library boards and the library staff.
Harden, who worked on the reference desk, recalled several unusual requests from patrons, including one college student who wanted the library to purchase her textbooks, let her borrow them for the semester, then turn them in.
"I always wondered what career path she was pursuing," he said.
Line remembers when the library had the only county fax machine and the nearby Sumter County Sheriff's Office would call her late at night to let them in to send faxes.
"I was fortunate to work with a wonderful group of people - from the staff, the board, the Friends and the county personnel," she concluded. "Everyone supported the library and helped us in so many ways. We couldn't have made it over the years without all the support we received. It was a pleasure to work at the Sumter County Library."
Harden, who has worked at the library for 37 years, said he "looks forward to continuing to work at the library for the foreseeable future . I do look forward to the library continuing to be an important part of the Sumter community and to provide a place for recreation, education and knowledge in a variety of formats."
The Friends of the Library invite the public to attend the celebration of the Sumter County Library's 100th anniversary from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at the main library, 111 S. Harvin St. Ample free parking is available, and refreshments will be served. For more information, call the library at (803) 773-7273.