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From The Beacon: Presidential history at your fingertips

This week marks the annual celebration of Presidents Day. The Beaufort County Public Library staff always looks forward to the day of celebration set aside for Americans to recognize our first president's birthday. George Washington was born on Feb. 22, but the holiday is always observed on a Monday. For many, it brings a much treasured three-day weekend. This year the holiday is Monday.

You might be surprised to learn that librarians love it when there's a holiday where many of our customers have off but we, at the library, work. Inevitably, such a holiday means we see an influx of friends and visitors and our library branches are busy all day. Presidents Day, in particular, brings in an abundance of inquiring minds. Typically, the weather still is a bit cool so it's just the right kind of day to plan an indoor outing to the library. Many students use the holiday as a time to catch up on their pile of schoolwork.

Here are just a few of the resources the library system offers to help customers learn a bit more about their leaders this Presidents Day.


If they've been president, then the library has their biography. Some of the more popular biographies being checked out today include:

  • "Decision Points." This autobiography by former President George W. Bush (2001-09) offers a glimpse at some of the most defining and difficult decisions made in his presidency, including those centered around the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the war on terror and Hurricane Katrina. He explains why some of those tough calls he made were the right ones.
  • "The Bridge." The biography of President Barack Obama by David Remnick traces Obama's life and rise to the highest political post in the United States in detail. It primarily centers on Obama's black heritage and his career as it related to the civil rights movement.

    The library offers several reference databases that can be used for a variety of educational pursuits. When it comes to learning more about our nation's presidents, some of the best to check out include the Biography in Context (Biography Resource Center) and the History Reference Center. These databases bring up search results that yield images, videos and primary sources, such as text copies of State of the Union addresses and other famous speeches.


    A quick scan of the print non-circulating reference shelves at the Hilton Head Island branch also turns up some interesting finds in relation of our national leaders. (Try looking around Dewey decimal number 324.)

    Here you will find "American Presidential Campaigns," edited by William G. Shade and Ballard C. Campbell. This subject encyclopedia of every single presidential campaign and subsequent election since 1788 is a handy resource for any American history student. It gives a rundown on both candidates, including personal information, such as birth and death dates and names of family members. The two-volume work even offers primary resources, such as copies of letters between politicians and notes on inaugural addresses.

    Some presidents are widely admired and others are more infamous than famous. Regardless of who you want to investigate further, you'll find their story at the library.

    Kelly Vadney is circulation manager for the Hilton Head Island Branch of the Beaufort County Public Library, at 11 Beach City Road, Hilton Head.