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CLR Case Studies–Georgetown County Library

The Future

Four initiatives that will enhance library services and collections in the near term are planned or in the grant proposal stage.

  • In fall 1996, public access workstations will offer Internet access in all three facilities.
  • Continuing a strong storytelling program within the library, the library director has approached local businesses to support the purchase of equipment that will enable the library to offer stories over the telephone to children.
  • The library’s special collections include a wealth of local history resources. According to McInvaill, it is one of the best collections, especially of photographs, among towns of this size. With the South Carolina Historical Records Advisory Board, the library is seeking grant funds to organize its local history collections and create a plan for digitizing records in order to increase access while minimizing the need to handle original source materials.
  • The library has requested corporate funding to acquire a computer to automate bookmobile circulation functions. An investment of $5,000 will save $14,000 in staff time annually and enable the bookmobile staff to stop at more locations.

The Georgetown County Library is experiencing a moment of opportunity. It stands between the leadership of a former director, who was forward looking and energetic, and a new director, who brings new ideas and plans to the library. The library that the Council staff visited and has documented here is a place that is evolving into something new, and though every library the Council has studied can be said to be undergoing change, the fact remains that Georgetown is facing the unique challenges that come with a change in leadership, which inexorably must mean a change in course. Looking to the future, McInvaill knows what services he would like the library to provide: an environmental library, a prison library, a special AIDS collection, and expanded archival functions. County library board chair, Samuel Hudson, sees expanded electronic access as a key the library’s future. He envisions offering access to library resources by dial-in at home, and for those without computers–especially the poor in rural communities–by dial-in to the library from local schools. Friends of the Library have their own hopes for the library in the future–for enhanced space, collections, and services, and for new technology. In time, these separate visions, guided by the library’s leadership, will become the basis for a common view of the library of the future, what it can accomplish, and the roles it will play in the community.

The county library board and county manager are looking to the library for technological innovation. Meanwhile, the community at large is not yet technologically active or equipped. It is looking to the library to lead the way, but it is not funding the library sufficiently to lead. With a capable staff, new facilities, experience (both library and technical), loyal friends in the community, and a strong positive image among community members, the Georgetown County Library is well-positioned to assume a stronger leadership role in the community. In fact, the library director must take a strong leadership role to create a vision of the library’s future that all can endorse and rally around.

To date, the Georgetown County Library has taken a go-it-alone approach to technology, for example, as the first to provide Internet services in the county. But it is unclear how the library will pay for continued technological development. Generally, it is difficult to sustain technological innovation without partnerships–that is, without the broad-based support that comes from building and sustaining relationships with agencies, businesses, or service organizations. Such partnerships afford opportunities for solving common problems, addressing wider needs in the community, allocating costs among the partners (rather than assuming all costs alone), and broadening constituencies and political support. Given the technological infrastructure and expertise that the library staff is building, the library has the opportunity to engage with local agencies in addressing issues in the report of the Georgetown County Needs Assessment Partnership Committee. With the kind of energy and ingenuity that brought the library this far technologically, the library should be attractive as an able partner to local organizations with similar visions of the future. Working in strategic partnerships with community organizations with similar aspirations and common concerns for the county’s information infrastructure, this strong library may realize untapped potential for service and financial sustainability.

1 Crampton, Norman. 100 Best Small Towns in America. Prentice-Hall, 1993.

From the publication Public Libraries, Communities, and Technology: Twelve Case Studies, published by The Council on Library Resources, ©1996. For more information contact
The Council on Library Resources, 1400 16th Street NW,
Suite 715, Washington DC, 20036. Phone (202) 939-3370. Fax (202) 939-3499.

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