The Fairfield County Library began as a WPA library project during the Great Depression.
There had been a small public library in Winnsboro around the turn of the century organized by Mr. Frank Fouche, Superintendent of Schools at Mt. Zion Institute. This library was located in a room over the Bank of Fairfield and was later moved to a room in the Town Clock building. Its first custodian was Miss Anna McCants. The library did not long survive and Winnsboro and Fairfield County were without a public library until the Winnsboro Women’s Club purchased the Old Community Building and opened a small library in one of the wings in the early 1920’s. Ray Matthews was the first librarian and served in that capacity for many years.
The present Fairfield County Library system grew from two WPA projects. The first was initiated in the county schools and was designed to develop school libraries. The second project was a traveling library sponsored by the Fairfield County Council of Farm Women. The project was an immediate success. The WPA provided personnel, helped pay for a bookmobile and provided gas and oil and upkeep on the vehicle. The County Council of Farm Women raised funds to apply to the purchase of the bookmobile and the initial book collection. The entire county was solicited for gifts of books to go into the library collection. The “Little Red Bookmobile” made its first run on April 12, 1937 with Mrs. Walter Wilson of White Oak at the wheel.
As the library program developed and gained local support, the Winnsboro Women’s Club offered the use of their building, the gift of their entire book collection, and the services of their librarian to provide a county library central headquarters. The County Delegation was asked for assistance in funding the library system and appropriated one percent of all school district funds towards the maintenance of the library. In 1938 this amounted to something over $2,000. The WPA continued to supply workers as well as supplies for the bookmobile. The County Council of Farm Women turned the book truck over to the county library and Miss Alice McDonald became the bookmobile librarian, a position which she held until 1973.
The Fairfield County Library was legally established by act of the legislature and a county library commission appointed. The commission was charged with the provision of county-wide public library service and had the authority to receive and disburse funds appropriated by the county for library service.
In 1940 the Winnsboro Women’s Club procured the old Power House for a library headquarters. The Power House was remodeled and redecorated in order to adequately house the library. In later years a notable addition was made in the creation of a children’s room at the rear of the building.
As the book collection grew and the service expanded it became apparent that the old Power House could no longer adequately house the county library. Severe space limitations were reducing the effectiveness of the library and preventing further progress. Mr. W.B. McDowell, Chairman of the Board, initiated a campaign to raise funds for a new headquarters library. The County Council purchased a site for the new building on the corner of Garden and Washington Streets in Winnsboro and appropriated Revenue Sharing funds for the building construction. Additional funds were secured in a $50,000 grant from the South Carolina State Library from federal funds under its administration. The building was completed and dedicated in May of 1977. The new building is a source of pride to county residents and has become a center for many programs and activities in the county.
In addition to the headquarters library and the bookmobile, the Fairfield County Library operates two small branches located in Ridgeway and in Jenkinsville. During the week, the bookmobile makes daily trips to rural centers in the county.
Since its establishment the Fairfield County Library has participated in State Aid grants from the State Library and in Library Services and Construction Act grants under the administration of the State Library. In addition to the $50,000 grant for building construction, the library has used its grant funds for the purchase of books, periodicals, equipment and for the provision of special services to both adults and children.
In 1977 a Friends of the Fairfield County Library group was organized by local citizens. At the end of its fourth year, the Friends have over 200 members and have contributed significantly to the library’s progress through gifts of equipment and books, support of library programs, and extensive landscaping of library grounds.
Two branch libraries have served the patrons of Fairfield County throughout our history. The Ridgeway Branch has been continuously running since 1951. Three different locations have been home to the branch with hopes of a more permanent location in the near future. Established in March of 1979, the Jenkinsville Branch has continued as a branch library until its closing in May of 1981.
- H. C. Schatz, Parr, 1946-50
- W. B. McDowell, Shelton, 1950-72
- George Coleman, Winnsboro, 1972-74
- Robert J. Fickling, Winnsboro, 1974-80
- W. C. Hayes, Winnsboro, 1980-1983
- Alexander B. Rabb, Winnsboro, 1983-1987
- Walter B. Brown, Winnsboro, 1988-1991
- George Lauderdale, Winnsboro, 1992-1996
- Tommy Sprott, Winnsboro, 1996-1997
- Dr. Clyde McCants, Winnsboro, 1997-2004
- Tom Fletcher, Winnsboro, 2004-2012
- James M. “Bubba” Lyles, III, Winnsboro, 2012-2016
- Paul Dove, Winnsboro, 2016-2020
- Jean McCrory, Winnsboro, 2021-
- Ms. Alice McDonald, 1944-56
- Mrs. T.A. Quattlebaum, 1956-67
- Mrs. George Frye, 1967-69
- Ms. Jean Metelli, 1969-71
- Ms. Patricia Scarry, 1971-74
- Mrs. Peggy Watson, 1974-76
- Mrs. Sarah D. McMaster, 1977-2016
- Mr. W. Eric Robinson, 2016-
Estellene P. Walker,
“So Good and Necessary a Work”: The Public Library in South Carolina, 1698-1980
(Columbia, South Carolina State Library, 1981), p. 26.
Edited by Eric Robinson, October 2017.