Latta Library was first in the county

LATTA, SC (WMBF) - Most communities these days have a public library, but more than 100 years ago, it was a rare asset. Today, the Latta Library is part of the Dillon County library system, but it got its start from a world-renowned multi-millionaire who valued education and giving back.

Latta was already a growing town in 1911 when Reverend W.C. Allen, a Baptist pastor, started talking about the need for a public library. It was a bustling community because of the railroad that splits it in half, and Allen urged people to move forward with the plans.

The town applied to the Carnegie Foundation for a grant. Andrew Carnegie was a wealthy philanthropist who wanted to give away most of his fortune before his death. He did so by building educational institutions and libraries throughout the country.

In order to receive a library grant, the Carnegie Foundation required towns provide land and pass a tax that would fund future maintenance.

C.F. Bass, who lived in Latta, donated land in the center of town. It was an-easily accessible spot for all residents, then and now.

"It was the first library in the county," says assistant branch manager Dixie Weatherly.

"This is one of the few Carnegie Libraries left in the state. I think there started out being 13 in South Carolina that he had done, now there's only like 4 or 5 left and this is one of them still in operation," Weatherly says.

She says the library still provides necessities to people in town, as it did when it first opened.

"A lot of people don't realize the importance of a library," Weatherly says. "A lot people don't have computer access at home so they can come here and do computer applications or whatever they need to do on computers and a lot of kids need books & stuff for school."

Nearly 100 years after it opened, The Latta Library, with its stately brick walls and historical markers, still stands in the same spot today on a busy corner in the heart of town. It's been renovated several times to keep up with the changing needs of the community, and because of its central location in town, at Main and Marion Streets, most patrons still leave their cars at home, but rarely forget to stop in.

"Sometimes they'll say 'I came when I was a little kid' or something like that and now they're bringing grandkids or children," Weatherly says.

The library offers several reading camps for kids over the summer. Next year, the Latta Library will celebrate 100 years of serving the community.

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