What a small library meant to young family

The James Island library. (File)

It’s not easy to start a new life over one thousand miles away from your family and friends. That is what we did in 1997 when we made a permanent move to Charleston. It is more difficult when you are a mom with a 4-month-old baby and a dad in a brand-new job. The support of grandparents and family is so important for young parents, and seeing family once or twice a year isn’t nearly often enough.

As a stay-at-home mom on James Island, without money to spend on much except groceries and diapers, our refuge was the James Island Branch Library on Camp Road. As our family grew to two sons by 2000, I frequented the small library several times weekly with my boys.

This is what my mom had done with my sister and me during our childhood in Corpus Christi, Texas. Laura, Mary and Carrie from the Little House books, Nancy Drew, Mitch and Amy, and of course, Ramona and Beezus — were all a big part of my childhood. My boys discovered Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, the Berenstain Bears, and later The Warriors and Redwall book series, and many others. I would put the boys in the “reading pit” with books and get myself a biography or cookbook to look over. Many times I read Consumer Reports as we could never afford a subscription, and it always seemed that our washer, dryer or dishwasher needed to be replaced. The boys and I would collect several dozen books and videos.

We loved the ladies who worked at the library and visited with them as they searched for whatever book or movie I had placed “on hold.” We met other moms and kids (and sometimes a dad). We visited with neighbors, and it was always a bit scary but fun to run into a teacher we knew. (Did we have too many videos and not enough books?) We picked up info about community classes and rec center sports registration. We’d look through the “free books to good homes” in the cardboard box and sometimes take a couple home with us.

On long, hot summer days, the CCPL summer reading program was our main activity along with swimming lessons at the James Island Rec Center. The boys read their way through the program, earning medals and certificates, and lots of praise from the Camp Road librarians. I don’t know if we would have spent as much time at the library as we did if we had to drive farther or drive on a major thoroughfare to get to it. If you live on James Island, you know to avoid Folly Road at all costs if you can help it, and the location of our Camp library has allowed for many residents to do that. With our boys now graduated from high school and eighth grade, I wonder about the impact of our visits to the Camp library over the years. Both of our boys are strong readers and writers.

Charleston County Council has made an initial vote in committee to build a new, large library on James Island on South Grimball Road as part of the library bond referendum building program approved by voters last November. I am glad that residents south of Fort Johnson Road in the neighborhoods adjacent to Folly Road will have a library near them. Neighborhoods like Seaside Plantation, Ocean Neighbors and new apartment complexes and subdivisions in the Secessionville/Fort Lamar area will benefit from the new library, along with the 400 plus students at James Island Elementary School. It appears that council’s decision is firm.

But our elected officials can do more. They can save our James Island Branch Library on Camp Road, too. The Camp Road library is a positive anchor to the Camp Shopping Center and provides important services (including Internet) to many residents and students who can access it safely by foot or on bike. The Camp Road library is in close proximity to the two island middle schools and James Island Charter High School. It serves dozens of central James Island neighborhoods. In the summer of 2014, James Island’s mayor and council unanimously passed a resolution requesting that the county keep the Camp Road Branch Library open.

The small West Ashley branch library on Windermere Boulevard has been saved. The small branch in the Old Village of Mount Pleasant remains open. Please save our Camp Road library on James Island.

We appreciate the new library funded by the referendum, but we need our small, beloved Camp Road library, too.

I wonder how many other islanders, including retirees, students and young families have relied on the Camp Road branch the way our family has. To urge County Council to save the Camp Road library, please contact members before Tuesday, June 16, and attend the meeting that day, when they will make a decision about the future of CCPL on James Island.

Susan Milliken is a former member of the James Island Charter High School Board of Directors. She is an advocate for the preservation of green space and trees with the group “Save James Island.”