Greenville’s Best 2: My “Safe Place” Library

Sometimes my family life was a bit tumultuous and frightening. When things were dark, I would start walking in one direction: uptown to the Greenville County Library that used to sit at the head of Main Street. I would get lost there for hours. Most Saturdays, for most of my life, my Dad would take me there, too, if the mills weren’t running and he didn’t have to work. Looking back, I see that this is most of what I gained from my father: the love of reading. And that is a big gift, which has seen me through many hard times since then.

I couldn’t find a photo of that old library. If anyone has one, I’d love to see it. I remember red brick and dark wood and the heavenly smell of the card catalogue.

Years later, in the 1960s, when Jesse Jackson, Jr, sued the Library District for not letting him and other Black people into the stacks––he had come home from the University of Illinois Library and needed to finish a paper––I remember thinking, how could anyone deny anyone a library? I was privileged to be allowed there, and I’m glad everyone is allowed, now.

As a teenager, when my Dad was often working and I had to walk there myself––yes, all the way from the Welcome community––mHughesMain_415aybe five miles?––When I had a few cents I would stop––you know what? I’ll tell you Saturday.

For now, admire the new Hughes Main Library and tell me about your own early reader experiences. See you!

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2 Comments

  1. When I was a child living in the suburbs of a not too big town in Germany, there was no library nearby. But there was the “library bus” which came every Tuesday at 3 pm and left at 5 pm. Two hours to browse, talk to our friends and the librarian, who was a kind lady. We were allowed to borrow three books per week. If I remember correctly, adults could take up to five books. Most adults, however, went to the central library. But elderly people or people with walking disabilities used the library bus, too. If we could not find a certain book we wanted to read, we would tell the librarian and she would bring it the next week (if it was available).

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    • Those traveling librarians are a special breed. In retirement, my father-in-law drove a library bus part-time, and he lived it, I think, far more than any of his more prestigious jobs. Watching the kids meet the buss week after week was the most fun, he said.

      I remember when the library buses came to our schools when we lived in the country, because our schools were too poor to have libraries on site.

      I love all librarians, forever and forever. They kept the world open for me!

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