Living Columns & Blogs

Get your books ready: National Library Week is here

The Beaufort County Library will celebrate National Library Week April 14 to 20.

This is a time to highlight the value of libraries, librarians and library workers. It is also an opportunity for the library to showcase its unique role in the lives of people and a community.

The theme of 2013 is "Communities Matter @ Your Library." Libraries are deeply committed to the places where their patrons live, work and study. Libraries are trusted places where everyone in the community can gather to reconnect and re-engage with each other to enrich and shape the community.

The first National Library Week began March 16, 1958, with the slogan "Wake Up and Read." A proclamation was issued by President Dwight Eisenhower, with statements of support for libraries issued by former presidents Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman.

Libraries go back a long way. In fact, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "in earliest times there was no distinction between a record room (or archive) and a library, and in this sense libraries can be said to have existed for almost as long as records have been kept."

Clay tablets were found in a Babylonia temple dating as far back as 3000 B.C. Alexandria, Egypt, was the home of a famous library, beginning in the third century B.C, and surviving until the third century A.D.

Although libraries have been around for thousands of years, a large portion of the materials they contained have been lost forever. For example, many libraries, including Alexandria's, were destroyed in war. An emperor of China would destroy records of previous dynasties so that history could be said to start with his dynasty. The Nazis burned books; the former Soviet Union banned books.

Beaufort County has an interesting library history. Did you know that as early as 1755, the Parish Church of St Helena established a library for its congregation? The city's first public library began in 1802, with the establishment of the Beaufort Library Society. By 1860, the library's collection included more than 5,000 volumes.

The year 1861 saw Beaufort occupied by federal troops and the library's collection ordered moved to New York. In 1862, the entire collection was to be auctioned off. Fortunately, the auction was canceled and the holdings were put in the Smithsonian. Sadly, the entire collection was destroyed in a January 1865 fire. Another fire threatened the library in 1907, but most of the holdings were saved.

In 1963, the Beaufort County Library was named the nation's outstanding small library.

Today, the Beaufort County Library System includes five branches throughout the county: Beaufort, Bluffton, Hilton Head, Lobeco and St. Helena. There is one near you!

Bratton DeLoach is the reference librarian of the Beaufort County Library System.