UNION — The hard work and determination of its staff to make it the best it can be is what has enabled the Union County Carnegie Library to make a positive difference in the lives of the people of Union County.
The Union County Carnegie Library is closed until January 1 as it temporarily relocates to the old Graham Cash Building at 127 East Main Street, Union. The relocation is necessary to accommodate the $1.8 million restoration and modernization of the library’s permanent home which is located at 318 East South Street, Union.
The project will include the restoration of the original, historic section of the library which was built in 1905; the addition of meeting spaces, study rooms, and partnership spaces for collaborations designed to make the library an integral community hub; the finishing of the lower level for expanded children’s and teen’s spaces, including an early learning resource center in collaboration with First Steps. The new spaces are designed to allow the library to provide a broader range of services and ensure there are the spaces necessary to facilitate the success of community residents.
The restoration program was kicked off with a Thursday, Nov. 30 groundbreaking ceremony on the library’s front lawn attended by library staff, supporters from the community, and a number of dignitaries including State Rep. Mike Anthony and State Sen. Harvey Peeler who secured $1.25 million in state funding for the project. One of those attending the groundbreaking was Library Board Chair William Rochester who spoke on the library, it mission and values.
“Because of the changes taking place now, we are in the process of updating our vision and mission statements, Rochester said. “The vision statement basically tells you what you plan to do and the mission statement tells you how you will get there. We plan on using a value based approach toward this effort. But before you can make those determinations, you must first know who you are, and that’s what I want to tell you about today. I want to tell you who we are.”
Rochester pointed out that as Library Board Chair he is often at the library and that when he’s there he takes “mental snapshots” of what he sees. He then offered the following examples of what he’s seen at the library:
• “I see Genn with her fabulous smile. A smile that makes everyone feel welcome. The children love her story time readings. Almost as much as Genn loves doing them.”
• “I see Kim making a fuss over some young boy who will never forget how special she made him feel about his book.”
• “I see Jason on the phone trying to get the best possible price for renting a van to relocate the library books during the renovation.”
• “I see John, who is always ready to help.”
• “I see Trudy asking someone how they are, because Trudy connects with the library patrons, and they connect with her.”
• “I saw the man that was standing behind the young mother who paid her overdue fees for her so that she could get some more books for her children.”
• “I saw the looks of joy from the seniors at all the senior centers in Union County when the library put books in the centers. I saw the lady at the senior center that bragged about the library helping her get audio books delivered to her home. I saw the lady who received glasses through the Lions Club because of the library’s intervention.”
• “I saw the group of at-risk teenagers that are here reading, a group that was not here before.”
• “I saw the lady who came back to the library to thank one of the library staff members for helping her apply for a job. She thanked him because she had gotten the job.”
• “And lastly, I listened to the lady who told me the story of her going back to work. She had been in an automobile wreck and was having seizures. Her seizures were very, very bad. When she was at a birthday party for one of her children, she lit the candles on the cake with a match, but did not remember that she had to blow the match out. She began reading again. She swore that reading and the doctors helped re-wire her brain so that she could go back to work and that she would always patronize the library.”
Rochester said that in many cases the positive impact the library was able to have on the lives of these people and so many others is due to its efforts to reach out to other local institutions and join forces with them to better serve the community.
“A lot of the personal involvement that I described has occurred because of the outreach that the library has done in the community,” Rochester said. “We partnered with all the senior centers in Union County. We partnered with First Steps to provide reading material for zero through 4K. We are partnering with SCWorks and are partnering with the University of South Carolina. The other day someone said we are becoming a hub for Union.”
Rochester said “these stories are everyday examples of who we are” and reflect the library’s values and values based approach to serving the community. While he used the word “we,” Rochester said that “I have nothing to do with the success here. It boils down to the hard work and determination exhibited by the library staff to make this library the best it can be.”
All this, Rochester pointed out, is part of the library’s tradition of serving the community, a tradition that he said continues to this day and will continue into the future.
“The Union County Carnegie Library system makes a difference in people’s lives,” Rochester said. “We always have, and we always will.”