Horry County, SC (WMBF) - Coding, robots, 3D printing and virtual reality are just some of the interactive activities offered by Horry County libraries this summer.
“It ranges from circuitry to virtual reality to building with planks, things that teach science and art and everything that we can imagine," said department head Cynthia Thornley. “We want them to be engaged and participating, not just sitting back and watching things.”
County librarians created 41 of what they’ve called “Marvel Kits.” They will be circulated throughout the 11 library branches this summer for kids of all ages to interact with.
The library funded the kits by using money that is normally spent on performers during the summer months.
“It was all money intended for the summer reading program but we just didn’t do it the same way. We just decided we are going to upend this, we’re not going to do this the way it’s always been done,” Thornley said. “So rather than having performers come in, we’re having the kids come in and actually do something.”
Thornley said the kits cost between $15,000 and $18,000 to create. Along with the kits, the libraries will still be offering their regular summer reading program that offers prizes based on how many books are read.
The libraries’ summer program is free to participants, but Thornley said the funding for it is a prepaid benefit for county residents.
“I’ve always felt like it’s free. It’s not really essentially free; you do pay for it,” Thornley said.
The libraries are funded primarily through Horry County and state taxpayers. In 2019, the 11 libraries operated on a $4.9 million budget.
Thornley said without taxpayers’ money, the libraries would look a lot different.
“Closed. There really wouldn’t be any other funding for the library and I think that’s why I think it’s so important that people understand what they have in their public library and what a treasure it is,” Thornley said. “Usually, I feel like it’s the best-kept secret in a community and it’s unfortunate because we don’t want to be a secret.”
Throughout the year the library system offers classes and programs that teach everything from business literacy to health and culinary skills for residents of all ages.
Thornley explained the library isn’t just about books nowadays.
“You don’t even have to cross our doors to use us now. Just have a library card and you can download us and you can go online and access all kinds of things,” she said.
However, the library still spends a significant amount of money on books. County check registers show it spent $178,000 to buy print materials from Ingram Library Services from January to May 2019.
Thornley said the libraries purchase an average of 3,247 print items a month and have ordered more than 32,474 items in the last 10 months.
“That’s why they come across as being one of the largest checks that we would write because that’s something that is going to be an ongoing process,” Thornley said.
The libraries spent close to 20 percent of their budget on materials and supplies, according to the county’s 2019 budget.
As Horry County libraries look to the future, Thornley said they hope to implement self checkouts in the next year and to restructure its 67 staff members to better serve the needs of today’s library patrons.
Thornley added the county libraries are expected to generate around $65,000 more from an increase in state aid.
To find out what programs and classes are coming up, click here.