Written by Jimmie Epling   

Unlimited Possibilities at the Library

By Jimmie Epling

The Darlington County Library System is a place of unlimited possibilities.  The Library is not a just a warehouse for books, it is a place for information, insight, inspiration, and innovation.  This National Library Week, April 12th-18th, we want you to know that the Library is an agent for positive change in our community.   

Through the resources the Library offers and the help of our staff, we transform lives.  The transformation may begin small and take decades to see.  Think of a child discovering a story about a cat named Pete, a dog named Spot, a young wizard, or a princess, that sparks a passion for reading that results in a scholarship to a university years later.  The transformation may come quickly and in a big way, such as an adult getting a job after using the Library’s resources to create a resume, apply for the job online, and learn interview tips.  If we want a great community and to see lives continue to change for the better, we know we have to change to continue to provide those unlimited opportunities.

In the tradition of the first lending public library in 1698, established in Charleston, we must always find the best ways to serve the needs of our community.  The Reverend Dr. Thomas Bray, the driving force behind the creation of the new "Publick Library," had a radical idea for the library.  He believed, "standing libraries will signifie little in the Country, where Persons must ride some miles to look into a Book; such Journeys being too expensive of Time and Money, but Lending Libraries, which come home to 'em without Charge, may tolerably well supply the Vacancies in their own Studies."  The same idea motivated the founders of the earliest “social” lending library in the backcountry in 1822, the Society Hill Library Society.  They built a small building for the community to house books on “biography, history, travel, science, also fiction by standard authors, Dickens, Scott, Thackeray, and others.”  That same drive to help others and make our community great motivates the Darlington County Library System today.

The drive to make our community great requires we become an awesome library.  We are a place where lives are enriched and changed through the variety of collections, programs, and services we offer.  To continue this tradition, we must look into the future to anticipate what the residents of Darlington County will want and need.  This is why in late 2014 the Library Board and staff began to develop a strategic plan to carry us through 2018 and beyond.  The plan is designed position the Library for future changes.  This eight goal plan, completed last month, is our guide to delivering the best possible collections, services, and programs to the community.  

Our first goal is to keep the Library an integral and relevant part of the community.  To do this, we must look into the future to offer what our community it may not now know it will want or will need.  Our collections will evolve over time to meet the changing needs of the community, such as adding e-magazines.  We are committed to increasing participation in our children’s summer reading program with innovative and fun programs to prevent the “summer slide.”  Look for our local history and genealogy collection to expand and take advantage of new technologies.  New computer training classes will be introduced in July. 

We will target those segments of our community that are underserved and underrepresented in our collections, services, and programs.  Establishing “Little Free Library” boxes to provide free books where locating traditional library facilities are not economically feasible is planned.  Our collection of Spanish-language children’s books will be expanded to meet the needs of our growing Spanish speaking community.

The Library will generate a “buzz” to raise awareness, stimulate interest, and elevate its profile and accomplishments so it will be seen as a positive, integral, and relevant part of the community.  We will use social media, the web, unique promotions, word-of-mouth, and presentations to reach targeted audiences in our community with our message of unlimited possibilities. 

The completion and dedication of the addition at the Lamar Branch on April 18th marks the Library’s continued commitment to creating people oriented, flexible, welcoming, and engaging spaces at all of our locations, Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar, and Society Hill.  Expect to see dramatic changes to the interior of Darlington, our oldest building.

One of the greatest challenges the Library faces for our community is providing access to the world through technology that is current and relevant to meet its needs.  The shift to web based only information and essential services shows no sign of ending.  The use of wireless devices, smartphones, tablets, and laptops (and maybe watches soon), in addition to the computers we provide, requires a robust network infrastructure to accommodate them.  That is why we must upgrade our network capability of handle the hundreds of terabytes of data it will be required to carry daily.  

We are investing in our staff to create a culture that values initiative, creativity, flexibility, adaptability, and performance.  Many things will take place behind the scenes, such as an emphasis on training and standards, for our staff to insure we continue to provide excellent customer service to everyone. 

The Board is dedicated to providing the outstanding and dynamic leadership necessary to take the Library in new directions.  It will work to strengthen and expand our relations with businesses, government officials, and community agencies for support and partnerships that will result in new cooperative efforts.  The Board is committed to being advocates for the Library.

Lastly, the Library will explore ways to strengthen and expand funding for capital improvement, equipment, and technology.  We will actively pursue grants and seek ways private individuals, companies, estates, may donate to the Library, such as through planned giving, gifts, or endowments.

A public library changes lives in a community because it is a source of “unlimited possibilities.”  The Darlington County Library System’s vision is to be the ‘in’ place for information, insight, inspiration and innovation in the community.  Realizing that vision requires the Library to effectively and efficiently manage its resources, build meaningful partnerships with other organizations, and respond to opportunities and challenges with a determination and confidence that it will make a difference.  Making a difference also requires a plan.  It is said, “Behind every great community is an awesome library!”  We have a plan to be that awesome library.  

April 13, 2015