Living Columns & Blogs

From The Beacon: Library a prime source of community

Beaufort County is a community undergoing tremendous change. In 2007, we were the fastest growing county in South Carolina. Now we have an unemployment rate of more than 8 percent.

Recent years have seen our county evolve from rural to a worldwide tourist destination. Now, with challenges pushing back some of that growth, Beaufort County citizens are looking for resources and information to help them navigate the shifting waters of economic, educational and personal change.

The county provides its citizens with a public library system that is innovative, responsive and welcoming, and one that makes the most of sometimes limited resources. Like many libraries around the nation, our Beaufort County Public Library system has become a community gathering place -- a place of sanctuary, renewal and recovery for our community. We listened to our customers through our recent strategic planning process and are responding to your requests by balancing our capacity to serve with opportunities that bring resources and information to those who need them most -- you.

So what's ahead in 2011? January is Get Organized Month, February is Black History Month and March brings Teen Tech Week from March 6-12.

April will find us celebrating National Library Week for the first time, and it's an important time to participate in such a significant national event. The 2011 National Library Week theme, "Create your own story @ your library," expresses so well what has happened within the walls of our branch libraries during these past two years.

Our library system has become, a "third place" for Beaufort County -- something separate from home and work. That's what sociologist Ray Oldenburg referred to and Robert Putnam, Harvard professor of public policy, wrote about in his book "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community."

Being a Lowcountry county of islands and rivers, we are divided by geography. Being a place of great wealth and also poverty, we are divided by economics. However, within the confines of the library and even when library programs go "on the road" to schools, senior centers, low-income neighborhoods and even chambers of commerce events, our libraries have become the place where we gather and work together to address not only the issues of our shared community but personal goals as well.

During National Library Week, which begins April 11 and culminates in our annual open house April 16, we're inviting everyone to participate in a video production that will document what the library means to our community. We'll be filming one day at each branch library during that week, so everyone will have an opportunity to become part of the story.

May brings Children's Book Week, May 2-8, followed closely by the beginning of our summer reading program. Pre-registration for summer reading starts June 6. The program itself runs from June 13 through July 23, and completion certificates can be picked up through Aug. 31.

September is National Library Card Sign Up Month. You might be surprised to know our library system has nearly 90,000 library card holders. October is Archeology and Archives Month, so plan a visit to the Beaufort District Collection located on the second floor of the Beaufort library or stroll through our important history at the virtual collection on our website, And we'll be hosting the Smithsonian collection, "New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music," starting Dec. 17.

But don't think you need a special reason to stop into your local branch library. You always can find a best-seller, research any topic on our online databases, use our computers, check out a CD or DVD, attend a program or community meeting, or just spend some time visiting with your friends and neighbors. We look forward to seeing you and serving you in your informational, educational and recreational resource needs. We're here for you in 2011 as always -- for learning, for leisure, for life.

Sandra Saad, CFRE, is the director for development and marketing for the Beaufort County Public library System and serves as the chief development officer for the Public Library Foundation of Beaufort County.