Union County Carnegie Library: Serving the Community since 1905

With recognitions including being the first of 13 Carnegie libraries built in South Carolina and being recently voted one of the best small libraries in the United States, the Union County Carnegie Library (UCCL) stands proud in a region that is chock-full of notable landmarks.

The Carnegie Free Library—as it was originally known—is located in the city of Union. Being the only public library in Union County, it serves a total population of nearly 30,000 residents.

Built in 1905, money to construct the historic building was made available through a donation arrangement by steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie. Frequently referred to as one of the most influential philanthropic programs in American history, Carnegie’s library donations throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s included more than $40 million, which paid for 1,679 new library buildings in communities across America. 
          
Grandly formal in style, ornate architectural details reminiscent of its Beaux Arts design—a prominent dome, interior and exterior columns, a stained glass ceiling, and stained glass window—adorn the building while blending seamlessly with its ornamental red and yellow brick facade.

In 2009, UCCL was named Library Journal’s Best Small Library of the Year for its service to the community, beating out over 60 institutions from across the United States. Among other things, the prestigious moniker came with a $15,000 cash award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Although you can’t help but feel the building’s history when you enter, UCCL offers modern-day advancements that one comes to expect from a twenty-first century library. Originally consisting of approximately 2,500 square feet, an addition completed in 1985 expanded the library to its current size of 8,000 square feet.

“The library itself has a pretty big impact on the community,” said Ben Loftis, director at UCCL. “We are in a fairly rural part of South Carolina and we serve a lot of low-income people, so we actually have quite a few people come in just to use the computers. It’s a really great way to serve the community.”

UCCL has about 38,000 titles in circulation, but it is also part of the SC LENDS Consortium, bringing the total number of titles that can be accessed by its patrons to over two million. In addition, the library offers extensive adult and children programming and has a sizable genealogical collection that draws people not only from Union County and South Carolina, but throughout the southeast and even farther at times.

About 1,200 people visit the library each week, according to circulation supervisor Pat Jones.
 
“The thing I like most is the patrons that we serve,” said Jones. “We have a lot of people that need help, and we’re oftentimes able to offer them assistance in some form or another.”

Getting There:

The Union County Carnegie Library is located at 300 East South St. in Union, South Carolina.
Hours:
  MondayFriday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  Saturday: 9 a.m. to  3 p.m.

Contact:
  Phone: 864-427-7140
  Email: reference@unionlibrary.org

Learn More:
Visit the Union County Carnegie Library website here.
To learn more about historic Union, SC, click here.

Sources:
Carnegie Libraries: The Future Made Bright, National Park Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior
Union Carnegie Library History by Jennie Holton Farr
Best Small Library in America 2009: Union County Carnegie Library

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never-failing spring in the desert.”—Andrew Carnegie

James Richardson is a freelance writer and the publisher of the Travelers Rest Tribune. When he's not writing, James enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and two children at any one of many places across the Upstate.

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