Lexington County Public Library System Does More Than Lend Books


Everyone knows you can borrow books at the Lexington County Public Library System.

But did you know that you can check out a free pass to all of South Carolina’s state parks?  Did you know the library provides magnifiers and large print versions of selected publications?  Did you know you can use a free laptop inside library facilities? Or that you can reserve a meeting room complete with Wi-Fi, smartboards, projectors, sound systems and kitchenettes? Did you know that you can get one-on-one research with a dedicated librarian’s personal help into various topics like genealogy, finance and healthcare, or participate in personal tutorials on new technology? Did you know you can get personal help filling out job applications? 

All of these services and more are free to anyone who holds a library card. The cards are free to Lexington County residents with a picture ID or other proof of residency. Non-residents can obtain a library card to access the system’s resources for $35 per year per family.

Lexington County’s 11-facility public library system had 695,438 books and other print items available to lend during fiscal year 2020-21.  But the library system’s services include much more than just lending publications.    

Services include DVD and CD borrowing, e-books, audio, video and periodicals, retrievals from databases and more, according to a written profile of library services provided to the Chronicle by Kelly R. Poole, the library system’s director.

“There’s one in every city or township,” Poole said of the system’s locations, which cover Batesburg-Leesville, Cayce-West Columbia, Chapin, Gaston, Irmo, Lexington, Pelion, South Congaree-Pine Ridge, and Swansea.

She also mentioned the system’s mobile library, the bookmobile, that sets up in various locations across the county. An additional bookmobile is planned to go into service this fall, she said.

The library’s “At a Glance” 2020-21 fact sheet states that of Lexington County’s population of 293,991, 126,116 held library cards; that group visited the library’s various facilities 255,744 times in 12 months. The system lent 2,370,350 items in 2020-21.

Systemwide, the library was open for 30,678 hours. Librarians answered 85,109 reference questions.

The libraries’ Wi-Fi systems hosted 40,307 sessions, with 16.2% of households in their service lacking internet access. 

The library system employs 151 employees, including custodial staff. Most are part time, Poole said.

But you don’t have to visit the library to use some of its services. Logging onto the system’s website with library card information allows access to services like e-magazine subscriptions, foreign language tutorials, reservations to meet one-on-one with a librarian, audio and video offerings, and more. 

The system has an annual operating budget of approximately $10,000,000, Poole said. 

“About 93% is your local tax revenue” she stated.  

Other sources of funds include state-provided funds (about 6% of the budget) and fines, replacement fees for lost items and fees for services like copying and printing (about 1%).

$1,020,000 of the annual budget is allocated to new acquisitions of books and other lending materials and access to databases.  

“Every branch has the ability to select their own collection,” Poole said. “And that’s true of all the materials.”

She pointed out that trained librarians at the various branches with master’s degrees in library science make the choices for their branches based on the needs and tastes of their particular area. Librarians use parameters like reviews of particular titles, local interests and popularity of topics to make new acquisition choices.

Visitors to any location can access the entire body of lendable items by making a hold request for a title from another branch. 

“We have a courier system that runs Monday through Friday,“  Poole said. “You most likely will get a hold of your request the next day.  After you request it, sometimes you get it even the same day.”

The system’s meeting spaces have been used for various purposes including women’s clubs, study groups, HOA meetings, home school groups, government agency gatherings, AARP training, employment interviews, zoom calls and even remote exam proctoring. There can be no commercial selling during use of the conference rooms.

The branches have ongoing events, like gardening instructions from master gardeners, presentations by the Lexington County  Museum, pro bono meetings with lawyers (on topics like wills, real estate law, family law and more). There are programs for children, “tweens” and teens that include topics like basic first aid, how to use a credit card, cooking, doing laundry, shopping on a budget, car maintenance and other life skills. 

The lower level of the Lexington main branch includes a South Carolina collection, focusing mainly on Lexington County.  The collection includes local current and antique maps, local photographs, church records, personal oral stories, archived local publications and official public records and budget documents.

The library system is governed by a nine-member volunteer board appointed by Lexington County Council.  Their profiles are included on the library system website and include educators, registered nurses and private industry executives. The board meets once per month and approves policies and budgets. The meetings are held at the Lexington branch and are open to the public.

Each branch also has a dedicated Friends of the Library chapter that raises funds, mainly for summer reading programs, for each specific branch, Poole said.  

Coming soon will be a “library of things,” the director added.  

That service will provide objects for lending like tools for a specific job, a special cooking pan for unique recipes and items like fishing poles. The service is expected to start this fall.

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