More about the University of South Carolina Library

In my previous post, I mentioned that the University of South Carolina can claim to have been the first college in the U.S. to set aside a building exclusively for its academic library, in 1840. (At the time it was common practice for the college library to share space within a building with other functions.) That building was not destroyed during the Civil War–perhaps the fact that the college was closed during the war bought the library some measure of protection–and is, in fact, still in operation, as the South Caroliniana Library.

If you want to read more about the history of USC’s libraries, you’ll find this site to be of interest.

The only visit I ever made to USC’s Cooper Library was when I was a tenth grader.  My English teacher, probably casting about for an excuse for a field trip, carted my class to Columbia with the ostensible aim of having us do research for a history term paper at that library.  The group of us packed ourselves into a small area near the card catalogue, trying to look unobtrusive and not as badly behaved as we knew others thought we were.  So, perhaps the logic of the trip was fuzzy, as fuzzy as my term paper topic [the French Revolution!], and perhaps one of the librarians sensed this, because as I remember it, I only had a chance to peek at the cards in the drawer before my teacher came back and reported, with a roll of his eyes, that we had been asked to come back when we could have a formal orientation.  I guess they didn’t want one teacher, a chaperone or two, and 33 teenagers running around the library on a Saturday.  Afterwards, I think we ate at Wendy’s.  And that’s the extent of my memory of the main library at the University of South Carolina. 

To give my English teacher some credit, he took time out of his Saturday to expose us to a university library.  He had earned a master’s degree in German at USC, and in the early ’80s he was stuck teaching high school English at a provincial private school in a rural area of South Carolina.  For him, this trip may have  been an attempt to bring something he valued to us.  He also exposed us, the first week of school, to the Who’s Tommy, the Rock Opera.  When I hear it now, I still think of him. 

I left that school in the middle of the tenth grade, without ever having to write that paper on the French Revolution after all.  My English teacher stuck it out at the school for another year, I heard, but after that, I have no idea.  Some years later I heard he was managing a restaurant in North Carolina.

Published in: on August 30, 2008 at 11:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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