On any given day, the place in Charleston that draws the most diverse crowd is usually one of the 16 county libraries.
Scholars mine resources for their forthcoming dissertations or books. Children learn the joys of storytelling. Unemployed or underemployed men and women search for jobs on library computers.
Teenagers gather to work on homework and complain about their parents. Parents check out a dozen books at a time to help their toddlers get to sleep. Music lovers immerse themselves in Metropolitan Opera performances. Authors discuss their latest publications. Groups schedule their regular meetings.
They — we — come for a thousand different reasons, and for reasons that change with every generation. We check out audiobooks, CDs, DVDs and, oh yes, books. If we can’t get to the library we receive them from the library by mail. If the library doesn’t have the books we want, the librarians search other systems for the titles.
With libraries spread from McClellanville to Edisto, there’s one nearby for all of us. The libraries receive more than two million visits from Charleston County residents every year; we check out 3.8 million items annually.
And when we have the chance, we return our love. In November 2014 we voted overwhelmingly — 74 percent — to build five new libraries and renovate 13 others. We endorsed a more than $100 million plan for building upgrades and more technology. The only controversy that arose was when James Island residents wanted even more libraries than had been planned.
At a time when government agencies are routinely denounced, isn’t it refreshing that one is so appreciated that we want it to do more?
April 10-16 is National Library Week. Join the celebration. Visit a library. Check something out. Better still, join the Charleston Friends of the Library (www.charlestonlibraryfriends.org), a group whose only purpose is to support the county library system.
Every year the Friends provide the system with about $100,000 to support up to 6,000 special programs like summer reading camps and the incredibly popular Charleston Tells storytelling festival. Attend the Friends’ regular book sales and buy some high-quality, low-cost books for your own library. The next is June 17-19 at the Main Library at 68 Calhoun St. And in the fall, come join the hundreds of volunteers who help us set up the Friends’ biggest book sale — cleverly called That Big Book Sale. It’s a diversity matched by the people, you and me, who enter the libraries every day.
Charleston Friends of the Library