CLR Case Studies–Georgetown County

The Context

An area with a deep sense of its history, Georgetown is a rural county of 800 square miles with a population of 46,302 (1990 census). Georgetown City, the county seat, today contains many homes and churches dating from the Revolutionary to Victorian times, and large plantation homes on the outskirts. County residents of both European and African American heritage influence profoundly all aspects of the area’s cultural life and history. The cultivation of indigo, and later rice, caused vast plantations to thrive before 1860. The Civil War, hurricanes, and competition from rice fields in Texas destroyed the rice culture by the early twentieth century. A slow post-Civil War economic recovery showed real progress only after World War II. Current industries include paper mills, a steel mill, shipping, and tourism.

The county has three distinctive population centers. Georgetown City (population 29,174) is an eighteenth-century port town. Today, as a racially mixed community and county center of commerce, Georgetown enjoys the reputation as one of the 100 best small towns in America.1Andrews (population 9,766) is the least prosperous community of the three; the percentage of its population over 25 with a high school diploma is almost 25 percent lower than the average in Georgetown County. Pawleys Island/Murrells Inlet (population 9,647) is the fastest-growing, wealthiest, and most highly educated area of the county, with a sizable retiree and part-time community. Overall, the county’s annual population growth rate of nine percent is the state’s highest. In 1990, the population was 43 percent black, 56 percent white, and one percent other; 20.2 percent lived in poverty (compared with 13.1 percent for the United States).

The Georgetown County Library provides services at a main library, two branches, and one bookmobile, as well as through online services. An independent agency within the county, the library is governed by an appointed library board and receives funds annually from an elected county council. Service to the community began in 1799 with the establishment of a library society in Georgetown City. Remnants of this early collection are preserved in the library’s special collections department. The first fully public library, established in the 1930s with WPA resources, moved in 1953 to the renovated town jail, Georgetown’s first public library building. In 1989 and 1990, three new facilities were opened to the public as the first structures specifically designed for public library use: a central library in Georgetown City, a branch in Andrews, and the Waccamaw Neck branch in the Pawleys Island area.

Library director Dwight McInvaill reports that in fiscal year 1995, the library collection included approximately 600,000 items, the library circulated almost 200,000 items, and staff answered 17,530 reference questions. In 1995, the library received support of $13.44 per capita. A staff of 26 (17 full-time equivalent) includes three professionally trained librarians and many longtime senior employees with highly developed community knowledge and library experience.

McInvaill began his directorship of the Georgetown County Public Library in January 1996. The previous director, Virginia Nilles, had written to the Council in July 1995 describing the Georgetown County Library and her vision for its future. This case study documents the library and its programs as it moves through a leadership transition and the process of formulating new vision and goals.